New caravan forms; Trump’s line hardens
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