Chaos on the border
The caravan arrives, and with it the inevitable chaos and confusion
Afunny thing about caravans. They move. In the weeks before the midterm congressional elections, the Democrats and the media chastised President Trump for the attention he paid to the caravan of thousands of migrants moving steadily from Central America, through Mexico, toward the American border.
“They’re two thousand miles away,” Joe Biden, the former vice president, assured us. “They’re hundreds of miles away,” said Jim Acosta, the perennial sophomore from CNN. That number kept getting smaller, and soon the outriders of the caravan were at the nation’s doorstep, and Sunday they were beginning to be here.
Five thousand of them are camped out now in Tijuana, the Mexican border town just south of San Diego, much to the anger of the locals, including the mayor, who wears a “Make Tijuana Great Again” baseball cap. Thousands more are still on the march toward the border, where the baleful and tragic result is playing out on national television and social media feeds worldwide. You might think that even a former vice president would have recognized such an inevitability.
On Sunday, scores of migrants tried to breach the border at San Ysidro crossing, one of the busiest crossings in the world. Some migrants threw rocks at U.S. border patrolmen. Others tried to make a break for it with a sprint across the border.
“The group breached a couple sections of [the border wall],” says Rodney Scott, the chief patrol officer for the region. They “actually tore down one small section, and started to rush across.” Border Patrolmen fired rubber bullets and tear gas pellets. Parents ran with their children for relief. Tear gas is very persuasive. It was an ugly scene.
The Mexican government has arrested scores of caravaners who attempted to cross the border violently, and has pledged to deport them to their countries of origin, typically Honduras or El Salvador. Mexico is soon to swear in a new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and Senor Obrador is eager to show that, leftist or not, he can get along with Mr. Trump, particularly on immigration. President Trump, for his part, has issued a threat to close the border “permanently,” which seems unlikely given that 100,000 people cross the border at San Ysidro each day.
Migrants waiting in Tijuana are eager to claim political asylum once they reach the United States. Such claims are currently being processed at San Ysidro, though at a pace that does not suit them. They say they have no choice but to break their way in.
Asylum claims are typically granted to migrants who claim fear of persecution in their native land, based on their race, religion, nationality, political orientation, or membership in a specific social group. Think the Rohingya people in Burma, or Christians in North Korea. The caravaners, by contrast, look like less credible candidates for asylum. Their native countries are violent and impoverished, but that suggests they are economic migrants, not truly refugees or asylum seekers. The rules for economic migrants entering the country are different from those who claim asylum.
The Obama administration bears much of the responsibility for this having come to pass. That administration broadened the categories by which migrants could apply for asylum. Fear of domestic and gang violence became sufficient for entrance to the United States. This was an obvious feint to make it easier for Central Americans to gain legal residency and hence citizenship and the vote. Even under Obama rules, would the United States have granted to asylum to a Canadian victim of domestic violence or a Parisian who fears the gangs that stalk his path?
President Trump became president, and the United States returned to historical precedent, which set out that neither domestic violence nor gang violence alone would be sufficient cause for granting asylum. By then, it was late. The migrants had learned they could gain residency by citing fear of gangs or abusive husbands. They soon began the long, dangerous walk to the border, and the ugly scenes at San Ysidro.