After a journey of more than a month, more than 150 members of Viacrucis Migrante — known as the Central American Migrant Caravan — arrived at the United States border on April 29. They were met with a hostile response.
The caravan, organised with the aid of Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People without Borders), reached Tijuana, Mexico, after a 3200-kilometre journey, during which they were subject to harassment and hate campaigns.
At Tijuana, the migrants were told that US immigration officials could not process their claims and they would have to spend the night on the Mexican side of the border.
For many migrants, returning to their countries means putting their lives at further risk. Many of the migrants are from Honduras. They risk repression and persecution from the regime of President Juan Orlando Hernández.
Last month, after a false report from Fox News, US President Donald Trump threatened to send the National Guard to the border against the migrants.
On the US side of the border, activists under the banner of “March Without Borders”, gathered to express their solidarity with the caravan.
Pueblo Sin Frontera published the demands of the migrants on its Facebook page. The post said: “We simply demand our rights as refugees, migrants, and human beings to be respected:
“1. We demand the right to seek asylum. We demand that we are not separated from our children and are not tortured by indefinite detention. Seeking asylum is not a crime. On the contrary, it is a right protected by law.
“2. We demand an end to the militarisation of the northern and southern Mexican borders by the US and Mexican governments, who have cruelly and uselessly sent troops (the US and Mexican National Guards) to the borders to repress us — families, mothers, children and grandparents who fled war and seek life.
“3. We demand that the US stop sending money to the Honduran government, with the exception of humanitarian aid, because their money is used to purchase the guns that Juan Orlando Hernández’s troops use to kill those of us from Honduras when we go out to protest in defence of our rights.”
Most members of the caravan, who were seeking a Mexican residency visa on humanitarian grounds, got their initial papers in the second week of April.
Writing about the US government’s response to the caravan, Kathryn Johnson of the American Friends Service Committee noted the repressive conditions in Honduras after the re-election of Hernández last year in an election widely criticised as fraudulent, and how this had led to many more people from that country joining the march.
“The US government should respect the rights they’re granted under international and US law and allow them to apply for asylum there, ” she wrote. “If caravan participants are turned away at the border — or denied a fair hearing and returned to dangerous conditions — they will have failed not only international law but a grave moral test.
“When they had the opportunity to protect the persecuted, they chose to drive them away with their military.”
As the authorities on both sides of the border refuse to take any helpful action, uncertainty looms over the fate of the migrants.
[Reprinted from The Dawn News.]