What are these ‘caravans’ of migrants that Donald Trump is concerned about?
U.S. President Donald Trump is very concerned about caravans.
Since Sunday morning, Trump has fired out a series of tweets warning about a massive caravan of migrants who have made their way from Central American countries to Mexico, with some of them set to try their luck claiming asylum in the U.S.
The tweet-storm was prompted by a Fox & Friends segment in which the head of the U.S. Border Patrol labour union said the Mexican government’s migrant welfare agency was helping some 1,000 asylum seekers get to the U.S. border.
Brandon Judd said the migrants were looking to take advantage of the United States’ so-called “catch and release” protocol, in which illegal aliens apprehended at the border are released while they await deportation proceedings.
“How many times do we have to hear stories of United States citizens being killed by people that are here illegally before we actually do something?” Judd asked.
During the interview, Judd also mentioned in passing an organization called Pueblos sin Fronteras, which he dubbed a “quote-unquote humanitarian group” also involved in assisting the migrants.
Pueblos sin Fronteras, whose name translates to “People without Borders,” is a U.S.-based advocacy group which, since 2010, has led caravans of Central American migrants to Mexico to draw attention to migrants’ rights and help them seek asylum in Mexico and elsewhere.
“We accompany migrants and refugees in their journey of hope, and together demand our human rights,” states the organization’s website.
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The so-called “Stations of the Cross” caravans help migrants find safety in numbers, and enable volunteers to help the group move through law enforcement checkpoints. This year’s caravan predominantly comprises Hondurans fleeing their country after President Juan Orlando Hernandez won a second term in an election marked by accusations of vote-rigging, but there are also El Salvadoreans, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans in the group.
On Thursday, Pueblos sin Fronteras confirmed that the caravan would split into two groups before disbanding in the coming days. One group will head to the city of Puebla, where migrants will be given workshops. The other group will head to Mexico City.
Caravan organizers denied that the impending disbandment has anything to do with Trump’s comments or him putting pressure on Mexico to stop the caravan.
“It’s not because of Donald Trump,” said Irineo Mujica, director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras. He explained that the group didn’t want to put children on freight trains, which are used to cover part of the journey to the border. The trains are infamous for causing injury to migrants.
Several children in the caravan were suffering from dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory problems, according to a local doctor.
Mexico’s foreign ministry also denied putting any pressure on the migrants, saying the caravan was disbanding of its own volition.
Once the caravan disbands, the migrants will largely be left to their own devices. Some of them intend to use their Mexican-issued temporary humanitarian visas to head to the U.S. border and seek asylum. Others said they wanted to seek asylum in Mexico, and were confused by Trump’s comments about them looking to breach the U.S. border.
The confusion was compounded by some of the caravan organizers misunderstanding the language of the immigration debate in the U.S. — some of them mistook Trump’s tweet about using the “nuclear option” to push border wall funding through Congress for the president considering using a nuclear weapon on the caravan.
WATCH: Trump calls for border legislation using ‘nuclear option’
The Mexican government says some of the migrants may get permits to stay, while others will be sent back to their home countries.
On Thursday, Trump signed a proclamation calling for the deployment of the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The lawlessness that continues at our southern border is fundamentally incompatible with the safety, security, and sovereignty of the American people,” he wrote in a memo authorizing the move.
WATCH: Trump directs National Guard troops to be sent to Mexico border
For their part, some of the migrants suggested that Trump’s threats paled in comparison to the dangers they faced if they went back home. Most of them are fleeing brutal gang violence, which has left Central American countries with some of the highest murder rates in the world.
“They will keep coming. … The people are afraid,” said Honduran migrant Jose Romero, 27, referring to rampant gang violence and poverty.
“The country is very poor,” said another Honduran migrant and father of three, Alexis Espinoza. “The money that we earn is not enough for food. … You don’t earn enough to make ends meet, not even for food.”
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press
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