Since its formation in Honduras on October 12th, a large migrant caravan has been moving north through Guatemala and into Mexico, fleeing political oppression and violence of nearby Latin American states. Earlier this week, approximately 5000 caravan refugees arrived in Tijuana, a border town in Mexico just south of California. Large numbers of refugees are trying to enter the U.S. through Tijuana. According to New Yorker, U.S. Customs officials are reportedly processing about 100 asylum claims each day, leaving thousands on the Mexican side to an uncertain fate. As for Tijuana itself, since the caravan’s arrival, many of its residents have protested against the refugees, chanting slogans “no more migrants” and “Tijuana first.” Yet, U. S. military personnel, that was deployed to the border to assist the reinforcement efforts, begins to head home. In response to this, the Mayor of Tijuana has declared a humanitarian crisis and has asked the United Nations for assistance.
The migrant caravans have received a lot of political attention, particularly from the Trump administration and the Republican party, as well as from the non-governmental organizations (NGO) who are trying to assess the situation. Timing-wise, the caravan offered a perfect opportunity for President Trump and the Republicans to push through an immigration policy during the U.S. mid-term elections. On October 31st, Trump tweeted, “We will NOT let these Caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S.,” pushing the same rhetoric that has been central to Trump’s presidential campaign since 2016. Amnesty International, in a recent November 16th report, notes that attitudes towards migrants have “deteriorated sharply under the Trump administration.” Amnesty also reports the “strength in numbers” approach that migrants and refugees have adopted by forming various caravans to protect themselves from human traffickers and violence.
The most recent Central American Caravan follows the model of other caravans that were organized in 2017/2018 by immigration rights group, People Without Borders. Though the latest caravan was not formed by the group, the fact that large numbers of people gather to flee shows the unbearable conditions that many face in Central and South America. Honduras and Guatemala, for example, are struggling with political, social and economic instabilities. Civil wars have created weak government institutions that cannot prevent recent spikes in organized crime, drug, and human trafficking. In terms of the mass refugee situation that now faces Tijuana, there is zero certainty as to what will eventually become of it.
Currently Mexican and U.S. officials are attempting to broker a deal as to the fate of the asylum seekers, and at current, both parties seem to hold different versions of future events. President Trump recently tweeted, “migrants at the Southern Border will not be allowed into the United States until their claims are individually approved in court,” adding that they would remain in Mexico until they were processed. Mexican officials at the present time deny ever receiving any specific proposals from the U.S. It would not be a stretch to imagine months passing before any real progress, be it deporting or processing the refugees were to take place.
With the limelight on the topic of refugees, once more, people are reminded how contentious of an issue it is, and how complex and deep the roots of the problem run. For now, the fate of the asylum seekers in Tijuana is uncertain.
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