New car­a­van forms; Trump’s line hard­ens

San Antonio Express-News - - NATION & WORLD - By Jeff Ernst, Elis­a­beth Malkin and Paulina Villegas

SAN PE­DRO SULA, Honduras — A new car­a­van of mi­grants is form­ing in Honduras, and even be­fore its sched­uled de­par­ture at dawn on Tues­day, bat­tle lines were be­ing drawn to the north, with some vow­ing to help them on their jour­ney north and oth­ers to block them.

For Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the tim­ing of the car­a­van of­fered fresh am­mu­ni­tion in his fight with Congress over the $5.7 bil­lion he wants for an en­hanced bor­der wall be­tween Mex­ico and the United States. The dis­pute has led to a par­tial shut­down of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

As he did last fall, when an­other car­a­van made the same trek, Trump por­trayed the mi­grants — who say they are try­ing to es­cape poverty and vi­o­lence and who in seek­ing asy­lum are ex­er­cis­ing a le­gal right — in an omi­nous light.

“There is an­other ma­jor car­a­van form­ing right now in Honduras, and so far we’re try­ing to break it up, but so far it’s big­ger than any­thing we’ve seen,” Trump said Thurs­day. “And a drone isn’t go­ing to stop it, and a sen­sor isn’t go­ing to stop it, but you know what’s go­ing to stop it in its tracks? A nice, pow­er­ful wall.”

De­spite Trump’s as­ser­tions, no­body knows how many peo­ple will leave on Tues­day and how many more may join the walk­ers as they cross Gu­atemala, reach south­ern Mex­ico and make their way to the U.S. bor­der.

It was also un­clear Sun­day who put the plan in mo­tion for this car­a­van.

The first chal­lenge to the mi­grants may come from their own gov­ern­ments. The deeply un­pop­u­lar pres­i­dents of Honduras and Gu­atemala, both tar­nished by scan­dal, are ea­ger to main­tain the sup­port of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Halt­ing the car­a­van could help them do that.

On Thurs­day, the chargé d’af­faires in the U.S. Em­bassy, Heide Ful­ton, trav­eled to the bor­der with Gu­atemala to tape a plea to mi­grants. “Don’t let your­self be fooled,” she said. “Don’t in­vest your time and money in a jour­ney that is des­tined to fail.”

In Mex­ico, the new gov­ern­ment, led by the left­ist Pres­i­dent An­drés Manuel López Obrador who took of­fice Dec. 1, says it will deal with the mi­grants more hu­manely than the pre­ced­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Of­fi­cials say they want to avoid a rep­e­ti­tion of the “hor­ror” ear­lier mi­grants en­dured as they tried to avoid de­tec­tion — and de­por­ta­tion — on the per­ilous trek across Mex­ico.

“Our vi­sion is that mi­grants are not criminals, much less do they con­sti­tute a threat to the se­cu­rity of Mex­ico or the United States,” Mex­ico’s in­te­rior min­is­ter, Olga Sánchez Cordero, said last week in a speech to Mex­i­can diplo­mats, promis­ing an end to mas­sive de­por­ta­tions.

She said mi­grants in a new car­a­van who en­ter the coun­try at of­fi­cial cross­ing points and reg­is­ter would be granted visas to stay and work in Mex­ico or per­mits to travel un­der the su­per­vi­sion of mi­gra­tion au­thor­i­ties to­ward the U.S. bor­der. But those who cross into Mex­ico il­le­gally, she said, will be de­ported.

“We won’t al­low any en­try that isn’t or­derly, safe and reg­u­lated by Mex­i­can law,” Sánchez Cordero said.

The gov­ern­ment’s new poli­cies will be put to the test when the car­a­van ar­rives, said Gus­tavo Mo­har, a for­mer mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial in Mex­ico’s In­te­rior Min­istry. “You can­not re­solve the prob­lem,” he said. “You man­age it in­tel­li­gently, cau­tiously, re­al­is­ti­cally.”

He said suc­cess, par­tic­u­larly with so much in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion fo­cused on the Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants, would give Mex­ico “moral author­ity with the United States.”

“Our vi­sion is that mi­grants are not criminals, much less do they con­sti­tute a threat to the se­cu­rity of Mex­ico or the United States.” Mex­ico’s in­te­rior min­is­ter, Olga Sánchez Cordero

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