On October 12, 2018, a small group of Hondurans, fewer than 200 individuals, agreed to meet and travel together through Central America and Mexico in an effort to escape the violence and political repression in their home country. As the group moved through the region and word spread of their journey north, their numbers grew; and at one point it was estimated there were as many as 7,000 individuals traveling in the caravan. Some of these migrants have requested asylum in Mexico, however, several thousand are still making their way north and hoping to arrive at the U.S. border in five days, where many of them will seek asylum.
Representatives from Honduran human rights organizations anticipate that more and more migrants will follow in this path until the threat of violence and political repression ceases in Honduras. As of Oct. 25, Mexican officials report that roughly 3,600 migrants remain in the caravan and 1,700 have begun the asylum process in Mexico.
- Why are they leaving?
- Who are the people joining the caravan?
- Why are they in a caravan instead of travelling individually?
- How do they compare to previous migrant caravans?
- Does the caravan present a security threat to Americans?
- How has Mexico responded to the caravan?
- How should the U.S. respond?
- How can you help?
Why are they leaving?
There are a number of reasons people are fleeing. However, the principal reasons are tied to the increased violence, political repression, and organized crime in Honduras and other countries in the Northern Triangle. The increased militarization of their countries of origin, corruption, organized crime, crack-down on political dissenters, and threats of extortion are causing people to fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. They are packing up their homes and leaving everything behind because they have no other options. Many of the people traveling have had members of their family killed and are fleeing as a last resort.
Who are the people joining the caravan?
In the case of the people fleeing Honduras, those who joined the caravan are amongst the most vulnerable. A substantial number of caravan members are mothers with small children. There are also sick and elderly individuals and others who are unable to work or make enough money to pay off extortion threats.
Why are they in a caravan instead of travelling individually?
Traveling as a group allows people to have increased protection and security. It makes them less vulnerable to assault, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and murder – all of which are common risks of this journey north. Based on information received from people who visited with members of the caravan, the group’s numbers grew organically because others sought the safety of the caravan as it moved through the region.
How do they compare to previous migrant caravans?
These migrants are fleeing many of the same persisting issues that others have fled previously. In April of 2018, a smaller group of roughly 1,500 migrants fled from Honduras and El Salvador. The Department of Homeland Security reported roughly 400 members of that group entered the U.S.
Does the caravan present a security threat to Americans?
As previously stated, the majority of the individuals in this caravan are mothers and small children. They are fleeing violence and seeking protection in the United States. They have few resources and are struggling to get food and shelter. These families are trying to find a safe place to call home.
How has Mexico responded to the caravan?
Over 1,000 members of the caravan have already requested asylum in Mexico and have hopes to stay there. The country has made efforts to expand their asylum system and has been working with UNHCR to improve the efficiency of processing asylum requests. Both the current administration and the incoming administration have made this a priority. However the asylum system in Mexico is still fairly new and not yet prepared to admit thousands of people at once. Mexican authorities have not tried to stop the migrants from crossing the Mexican border, however they are being pressured to do so by the United States.
How should the U.S. respond?
It is clear that the flow of migrants will not stop until the causes of this migration are addressed. As long as violence and repression persist in Honduras and other countries, people will continue to flee to safety. The U.S. cannot turn a blind eye to migrants fleeing violence and must allow for those seeking asylum to be processed as mandated by law. The U.S. has a moral obligation to continue providing a safe haven to families that have suffered the atrocities of state-sanctioned violence and organized crime. The U.S. immigration system has the capacity to admit the individuals in the caravan in an orderly and humane fashion. The United States has responded to larger groups of asylum seekers before now and we have the ability to do so now.
- Migrants should have the ability to approach a port of entry and be given the fair opportunity to apply for asylum in a timely manner. Any effort to delay, discourage or deter them from applying is immoral and unethical.
- U.S. authorities should treat the families with respect and dignity. Children should not be separated from their parents and they should be processed together as one unit.
- Families and individuals should not be detained indefinitely but rather processed quickly and given the proper legal resources that they need.
How Can You Help?
The individuals in this caravan need assistance NOW. It is essential that they get support before reaching the border as well as after. They need humanitarian aid as well as legal assistance.
Identify and collect humanitarian aid and resources: these women and children need food, clothes, shelter, medicine, medical care, mental health resources and legal assistance.
Circulate the facts: Communities need to educate one another on who these families are and why they are fleeing. Share this post with your networks, and help us inform people about the issue.
Meet with your representatives: Congress is on recess right now so many representatives are in their home districts. It is essential that constituents express support for the caravan and ask that the government treat them fairly and with compassion.