Can the Caravan Cross Into the US?
Thousands of people from Central America are on their way through Mexico, headed for the U.S. in a caravan. President Trump refers to it as an “invasion” and said he is sending 15,000 troops to the border to stop them.
DHS confirmed on Twitter that there are some in the caravan who are “gang members or have significant criminal histories.” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told Vice President Mike Pence that “the caravan was organized by leftist organizations.” Trump says he will withhold aid from the home countries if they don’t stop the caravan.
The caravan broke through a gate in Mexico to enter that country illegally. Some of the people were caught on video throwing rocks at a helicopter. One also had a Molotov cocktail. Mexican riot police tried to keep the caravan from coming into the country by using pepper spray on the emigrants. They failed.
Class Action Lawsuit
A dozen emigrants filed a class action lawsuit against President Trump, claiming a violation of due process under the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment states that, “no person … shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
The suit asserts that Trump’s plans to house the emigrants in tents violates the Flores Agreement. That 1997 agreement requires the U.S. to provide adequate housing and other care for the children of illegal immigrants. it also requires they be given to their parents or other relatives within 20 days of arrival.
The lawsuit also says Trump cannot stop them from entering the country, since they are applying for asylum. They are applying based on the conditions in their home countries. The suit claims that “Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are undergoing a well-documented human rights crisis.” The Immigration and Nationality Act says those facing persecution in their country can apply for asylum.
Slim Chances at Asylum
However, according to Jennifer Zilly Canales, a missionary in Honduras, many of them “are simply fleeing difficult, but not dire, conditions.” She says it is possible to lead a “dignified” life there. Coming to the U.S. for a better job is not grounds for asylum. And coming to escape violence is now more difficult. AG Jeff Sessions recently made it tougher to apply for asylum based on domestic or gang violence.
Some of the emigrants are trying to return to the U.S. after being deported. One caravan member told Lithicum, “I miss my PlayStation. I miss Buffalo Wild Wings.” But once deported, they are permanently barred from ever getting legal status in the U.S.
Their chances of getting asylum are slim. Ann Lin, associate professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, says there are three things going against them. First, the current backlog of asylum cases awaiting processing is over 750,000. Second, they are unlikely to get any type of immigration relief (about 11 percent of all applicants). And third, the average time before getting a favorable decision is nearly three years. If the emigrants were fully aware of this, they might desert the trek.
Also, the threat of being placed in detention once they get here might deter them. Trump is not inclined to “catch and release,” which is to allow the caravan members to apply for asylum then let them disappear into the country.
Mexico’s Tough Stance
Obtaining asylum in Mexico is also hard. The country reportedly engages in indiscriminate long-term detention of asylum seekers, and has a two-year backlog of cases. Mexico deported 950,000 Central Americans within the past few years. So far, over 1,000 members of the caravan have applied for asylum in Mexico.
The caravan is unlikely to reach the U.S. before the midterms. According to a recent Zogby poll, a majority of the country, including 51 percent of Hispanics, want Trump to use troops to stop the caravan at the border. This means the caravan will likely help Republicans more than Democrats in the midterm elections. The images of thousands of people headed to “invade” the U.S. is alarming people.