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Central American 'caravan': What is it and why does Trump claim it is helping migrants reach US?

The president has used the issue to target several different issues

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 03 April 2018 18:15 BST
Donald Trump speaks to reporters about his DACA deal tweets

So far this week, President Donald Trump has seized upon reports of a thousand-strong migrant caravan making its way from Central America to the United States border to air a laundry list of grievances, magnifying the issue tweet-by-tweet to politicize the group and what he says they mean for the United States.

Mr Trump’s comments — delivered both in-person and on Twitter — appeared to follow after Fox News highlighted the caravan of over 1,000 Central Americans who are currently travelling through Mexico. The issue was first reported by Buzzfeed News.

Without further ado, here is what you should know about the migrant caravan and the president’s comments.

Who are they and why are they coming?

The group of over 1,000 migrants are coming primarily from Honduras, and include children, men, and women. They started their journey late last month, and hope that their mass procession will keep them safe from a crack down by Mexican authorities, even though they do not have authorization to be in the country.

Those in the caravan hope that, once they reach the US border, American authorities will grant them asylum — Honduras has experienced high levels of violence and criminality in recent years — or that they will be able to slip into the country illegally. Many have said that they left their home country to seek employment, noting that there is little opportunity to earn a living back home.

Is this the first time we have seen a caravan like this?

No. The mass movement is organised by volunteers with the group Pueblos Sin Frontiers — or People Without Borders — and the group helped organize two similar caravans in 2017. The group has been helping migrants for over 15 years, according to their website.

What is going to happen to the caravan?

Mr Trump said Tuesday that he had been told by Mexican authorities that the caravan had been broken up. Mexican authorities have said that they were planning on breaking it up by Wednesday, and would offer humanitarian visas to the most vulnerable of them — but emphasised that the action was done independent of Mr Trump highlighting the issue.

That said, the Buzzfeed reporter covering the issue tweeted Tuesday that Gina Garibo, an organiser with Pueblos Sin Frontiers, told him that the caravan would continue.

“We will continue,” she said. “We have to follow through with our promise. At the end of the day these people have the right to ask for asylum.”

What has Mr Trump been saying?

The president, when looking at the migrant caravan, appears to be peering into the Mirror of Erised from the Harry Potter books, seeing in the movement whatever his heart truly desires.

He has used the issue to once again go after the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), saying that the deal is a “cash cow” for Mexico and appeared to threaten to scrap the deal if the migrants manage to get to the United States.

He has also gone back to the well to once again threaten to withhold foreign aide, this time for Honduras.

And, he’s used the coming migrant caravan to attack Democrats, and paint them as the real failures in America’s debate on what to do to fix its immigration problem. He argued that Democrats are responsible for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (Daca), even though he himself took executive action to end the program that protects young undocumented people who came to the US as children, and said that the coming migrants would try to take advantage of the program — even though nobody who has arrived in the US after 2007 would qualify for the protections anyway.

Daca has been a frequent source of consternation since Mr Trump announced he would end the program. Democrats and some Republicans have attempted to tie funding for the program to budget deals, but have been unable to reach a deal to do so.

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