A caravan of Central Americans making an annual pilgrimage to the U.S. border has found itself at the heart of two days worth of tweets from President Trump, who linked the effort to protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
“Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large “Caravans” of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws,” Trump wrote on Twitter early Monday morning, calling upon Congress to pass legislation securing the border.
The president went on to say that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was “dead” and pushed for his long-floated wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The tweets marked a continuation from the weekend — on Sunday, Trump wished followers a happy Easter before launching into a series of tweets bemoaning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and criticizing Mexico’s immigration policies.
“Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release,” Trump went on. “Getting more dangerous. “Caravans” coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
“These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!” the president declared.
That’s a bold assertion — one that is likely completely untrue.
Trump’s reoccurring mentions of “caravans” seems to be a nod to efforts by “Pueblo Sin Fronteras,” or People Without Borders. For the past five years, the organization has led a procession of people across borders and up through Mexico towards the United States. Participants say they hope to ultimately gain asylum or cross without papers into the country.
This year marks the largest effort to date, with upwards of 1,000 marchers, the majority of whom are from Honduras. A BuzzFeed reporter is embedded with the group, providing the movement with some media coverage, and Fox News, the president’s preferred news source, has also documented the effort.
Mexico has actually spent hundreds of millions of dollars strengthening its border with Guatemala, but the country has yet to detain anyone from the caravan, perhaps due to its size. The country deported upwards of 76,000 Central Americans last year.
Members of the caravan told BuzzFeed they are fleeing crime and political violence in their home countries. Many expressed their hope that the sheer size of the group would deter anyone — criminal, official, or otherwise — from stopping them.
“Going alone is risky. You’re risking an accident, getting jumped by robbers, and even your life,” said 29-year-old Mateo Juan. “All of that, and then you don’t get to the United States. The caravan is slower but you know you’re going to get there safely.”
The caravan is unconnected to DACA, an Obama-era policy that applied only to a certain group of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and underwent a grueling application process in exchange for temporary relief from deportation. Trump ended DACA last September, giving Congress a deadline of March 5 to find a solution protecting the hundreds of thousands of people covered by the program. That day has flown by and DACA’s fate is still tied up in court, with little indicator as to what will happen to its recipients.
Those traveling with the caravan are not eligible for DACA — instead, many likely plan to turn themselves into U.S. custody at the border, asking for asylum. Such cases are rarely successful, but they often take time to migrate through the legal system, sometimes taking years.
“I asked some of the migrants on the caravan what they thought about Trump saying they were going to the US for DACA. Some laughed and others said they thought (correctly) they wouldn’t qualify,” wrote Adolfo Flores, the BuzzFeed reporter traveling with the caravan, on Twitter. “For whatever reason Trump is conflating two different issues, DACA and reasons these people are on the caravan. I’ve spoken with dozens of people who cite violence, instability, and poverty as reasons for leaving. Not one has mentioned DACA.”
While the tweets are amusing for members of the caravan, they aren’t doing much for U.S.-Mexico relations, already suffering over Trump’s support for a border wall and stalled NAFTA renegotiations. Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray Caso, fired back at Trump on Sunday following the president’s initial tweets.
“Every day Mexico and the US work together on migration throughout the region. Facts clearly reflect this. An inaccurate news report should not serve to question this strong cooperation. Upholding human dignity and rights is not at odds with the rule of law,” he wrote. “Happy Easter.”