- A caravan of migrants has grown to 4,000 people and is currently trekking through Guatemala en route to the United States.
- An enraged President Donald Trump criticised the governments of Central American countries and Mexico, demanding that they halt the caravan before it reaches the US border.
- But a number of issues complicate the matter, including poverty and violence in Northern Triangle countries, the public failure of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, and complex asylum laws for which Trump blames Democrats.
President Donald Trump raged against the governments of Mexico and Central American countries on Thursday, criticising their leaders for “doing little” to stop the rapidly growing caravan of migrants travelling through the Northern Triangle en route to the United States’ southern border.
What started out as a group of 160 Hondurans has now swelled to a throng of 4,000 Central Americans currently trekking through Guatemala on foot, or piled into the beds of pick-up trucks, intent on escaping the violence and poverty plaguing their home countries.
“The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA,” Trump tweeted, referring to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade throughout North America, which leaders finalised last month.
“In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught – and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!..” he added.
It’s unclear how he intends to “close” the border, and the US National Guard has already been deployed to assist the Customs and Border Protection agency, though troops mostly monitor surveillance and are not permitted to physically arrest immigrants or assist in deportations.
The growing caravan and seeming inability to stop it highlights a number of complex issues at play:
- The labyrinthine US asylum system, which the Trump administration loathes for its protections against detaining and quickly deporting children;
- The gargantuan task of securing a 2,000-mile border with Mexico;
- And the often desperate circumstances in the countries that prompt people to flee, which US government officials recently visited Guatemala to address.
The number of immigrant families crossing the US border is skyrocketing
The Trump administration is already weighing how to crack down on the skyrocketing number of families apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border – as opposed to single adults or unaccompanied children – even though overall border apprehension numbers remain near the bottom of a 40-year low.
Border Patrol officers arrested 16,658 family members in September, according to Homeland Security data obtained by The Washington Post. The number is the highest one-month total on record, and an 80% increase from July, when Trump formally ended the family separations.
Migrant shelters and churches along America’s southern border have recently reported being overwhelmed by the amount of immigrant families dropped of at their premises by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which lacks sufficient space in its facilities to keep all immigrants detained while their asylum cases wind through the backlogged US court system.
The public failure of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy during the springtime, which resulted in the forced separation of thousands of immigrant families and sparked a national uproar, is also thought to be a factor in the uptick of family apprehensions.
Government officials have noticed more families were caught crossing the US border after the policy officially ended, and the Trump administration is now reportedly weighing a second round family separations to deter others from coming.
The new policy, according to The Washington Post, would give immigrant parents a “binary choice” to either remain detained in the US with their children, or remain detained while their children are paired with other relatives or acquaintances, known as “sponsors.”
It’s unclear whether the immigrant families currently travelling as part of the caravan will face that choice. The Mexican government has reportedly deployed federal police to its border with Guatemala in anticipation of the caravan, and said in a statement on Wednesday it would arrest and deport any immigrant without proper documentation.
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