Information provided by the Social Justice Committee at St. Joseph University Parish-
Central American Migrant Caravan: Separating Fact and Fiction
- Why are people leaving Central America now? Most commonly, migrants and their families leave to escape intolerable conditions including:
- Severe crime and violence – Honduras and El Salvador are in the top 5 of deadliest countries in the world, while Guatemala ranks 17th.
- Rampant corruption – Central American governments often turn a blind eye when thugs and criminal gangs extort, rape and murder. The rule of law is almost nonexistent, and the people cannot turn to the government for protection.
- Climate change – Droughts and floods have become commonplace and have devastated agriculture in Central America. This has led to hunger in rural communities.
- Domestic violence – Central America has one of the highest levels of violence against women in the world. Local authorities in Central America treat domestic violence as a family issue and offer no protection to victims.
- Economic opportunity – Job prospects in Central America are grim, especially for young adults. The U.S. is safer and more prosperous. Many U.S. employers, especially farmers, continue to rely heavily on undocumented workers.
- Why are people traveling in a caravan? Migrants travel in groups to protect themselves and their families from criminal gangs and corrupt government officials along the way. Few can afford to pay the $10,000 per person demanded by smugglers. Some politicians have claimed that liberal political activists have organized and funded the caravan. These claims are false and there is no evidence to back them up.
- Who is traveling to the United States? Thousands of mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons from Central American countries such as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala make up the caravan. Some politicians have claimed that unknown Middle Easterners are mixed into the caravan. These claims are false and there is no evidence to back up this claim.
- What if a terrorist sneaks into the caravan? Even if criminals or terrorists sneak into the caravan, it is very likely they will be caught by the U.S. authorities. When people apply for asylum in the United States, they undergo a very intense review to make sure they are not criminals or terrorists. The review is highly effective. Since 9/11, the rate for deadly terrorists was 1 for every 379,000,000 people admitted to the United States.
- What conditions are the migrants facing as they travel? During their journey, the migrants face unbelievably harsh condition including:
- Lack of access to food, water, medical services, and shelter. The migrants are sleeping on the streets or in makeshift camps.
- Harsh weather and route conditions. Sunburn, heat stroke, and dehydration are constant risks.
- Altercations with police.
- What will happen when the caravan reaches the United States? Most members of the caravan will never reach the U.S. border. At its height, the caravan numbered over 7,000. The Mexican government estimates that only 3,600 are continuing north and the caravan’s numbers decline each day as people stop traveling due to exhaustion or fear. Of the 1,200 migrants in the spring 2018 caravan, approximately 150 people requested asylum.
- Once the migrants arrive in the U.S., the government has a legal obligation to hear asylum claims from migrants who express a fear of returning to their home countries.
- Migrants who can establish a “credible fear” are given a court date to make their case for asylum.
- Migrants who are not found to have a credible fear are subject to expedited deportation proceedings.
- Most migrants waiting for court are let out of custody, often with tracking devices.
- Department of Justice statistics indicate that the vast majority of people show up for immigration court proceedings when required.
- Is the caravan a national emergency? On October 23, 2018, President Trump took to Twitter, calling the caravan a national emergency. Is it a national emergency? You be the judge. But for some perspective, during the caravan’s journey to U.S.:
- 16,800 people in the U.S. will die from drug overdoses
- 690,000 people in the U.S. will become homeless, including 267,000 children
- 8,850 people in the U.S. will die from gun violence
- 9,000 people in the U.S. will die from lack of health insurance
The caravan does not mean there is a surge of migrants seeking to cross the border. Indeed, the number arrest of migrants attempting to illegally enter the United States in August and September 2018 were only slightly above average for the same periods in the past several years.
We have some problems in the United States that could be fairly characterized as emergencies. The caravan does not seem to be one of them.
- Is the solution to the caravan to cut off foreign aid? In response to the caravan, President Trump threatened to cut all aid and assistance to Central America. Experts agree this is the wrong response.
- For the 2019 fiscal year the aid has already been budgeted and signed. Once the President has signed appropriations, he cannot sign an Executive Order to the contrary.
- But even if he could, most knowledgeable people agree that cutting off aid is a bad idea. Cutting off aid will only increase the problems in Central America that led the migrants joining the caravan in the first place. We should consider increasing aid, not cutting it back.
- According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the United States should be investing in economic development in Central American since that will lead to a civil society that honors the rule of law, and rejects collusion between the government and criminal organizations.
* Washington Office on Latin America
* Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
* The Cato Institute
* USA Today
* New York Times
* San Francisco Chronicle
* Immigration and Nationality Act
* Code of Federal Regulations
* Library of Congress