On Friday 26th October Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced that Mexico would be offering temporary work permits to those travelling in the migrant caravan to the United States. The deal, known as ‘Estas En Tu Casa’ (You Are in Your Home) includes temporary education and medical arrangements for those who claim asylum in the southern Mexican states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. With the Organization for Migration estimating that the group consists of 7000 predominantly Honduran migrants, Mexico is under pressure from the U.S. to prevent them from reaching the border.
Despite Peña Nieto’s declaration that ‘Mexico extends its hand to you,’ the majority of the migrants plan to continue on with their arduous journey. ‘It’s not the plan we have, to stay here halfway up,’ says Honduran migrant Anna Lisset Velazquez. Many of the refugees do, however, appreciate the offer as a promising plan B: ‘as a second choice, we’d be better off here’ says Greville Juan Villanova. Meanwhile, Donald Trump sends a clear message to those in the caravan: ‘turn around, we are not letting people into the United States illegally.’
Mexico’s offer of temporary settlement should be praised for the short-term relief that it could provide to some of those fleeing Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The group, which includes many young children, has been travelling since 12th October and walking for hours every day in 30-degree heat with limited supplies of clean water. Furthermore, the long journey through Central America is a notoriously dangerous one, with risks from people traffickers and bandits. ‘Estas En Tu Casa’ offers a chance to end this hazardous journey. However, the offer alone is insufficient as a long-term solution. Firstly, more needs to be done to protect and support those choosing to continue with their journey to the Mexican-U.S. border. Secondly, the U.S. government needs to think practically about how it is going to help those that reach the border. Thirdly, more needs to be done to target the root causes of instability and violence in Honduras. The U.S. needs to be more receptive in listening to the pleas of the Hondurans instead of threatening to withdraw aid and putting pressure on Mexico to deal with the current situation.
The journey began on 12th October when 160 people gathered in the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula. Having posted their plans on Facebook, they were joined by 1000 more by the following day and continued to increase in size on their journey through Guatemala. They are fleeing their countries because of a lack of jobs, drug wars and endemic gang violence. As highlighted by Honduran human rights activist, Yessica Trinidad, ‘this is not anything new’ but it is gathering more significant media and political attention because of the sheer size of the group. If the caravan reaches the border, the U.S. are legally obliged to hear asylum claims but Trump, eager to stay strong on his promise to stop illegal immigration ahead of the midterm elections, has announced plans to send 800 troops to block their entry.
Whilst Mexico’s offer is a commendable one in the short-term, it leaves the future uncertain. It remains unclear what will happen when the caravan reaches the Mexican-U.S. border or indeed what support they will receive along the way. It also leaves unanswered the question of what will be offered to future migrants fleeing through Central America, as Mexico seems eager to avoid setting a precedent with this deal. ‘Estas En Tu Casa’ has been created because of pressure from the U.S. but it leaves lots unresolved.