The Caravan and The Management of Asylum Seekers: What’s Left

Ben Becker, Maroon-News Staff

On October 13, hundreds of people began a journey from San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras to the United States’ southern border. The number of people in this group has only grown since then, with recent estimates putting the count at around 7,500 people. This huge impending wave of immigrants has caught the attention of politicians on both sides of the aisle, especially as the midterm elections could determine which party has control over the House. The Trump Administration and its allies, looking to use the Republican party’s fear of immigrants and conspiracies as a way of increasing turnout at the polls, have insisted that George Soros and immigration advocacy groups backed by wealthy bankers are behind the caravan. Meanwhile, leftist groups have claimed that the caravan is backed by Republican agents who were trying to increase GOP turnout on November 6. These conspiracies are simply that: conspiracies. The more logically sound explanation would be that these brave travelers are leaving their countries to escape rampant oppression, and they are coming to the United States in hopes of finding a better life.

We constantly hear about the violence and dangers that people in Central America face in their everyday lives. A report by the Brazilian-based Ingarapé Institute shows that while Latin America contains only eight percent of the global population, that population experiences 33 percent of the world’s homicides. This high rate is mainly attributed to gang violence and the illicit drug trade, making Latin America one of the most dangerous places in the world. Besides the danger indicated by this statistic, the homicide rate also creates huge problems for the progression of individuals living within these countries. Researcher Laura Chioda of the World Bank found that as many as 40 percent of young people in Honduras suffer from some form of depression due to the violence. She explains that it is hard to bring these children educational opportunities when the constant fear of death is always on their minds. The result is a stifled sense of hope for a brighter future for the people living in these countries. It makes sense as to why the caravan would want to leave this adverse environment for a better future elsewhere.

But why leave for the United States? What do we have to offer them? The simple answer is that we have everything to offer them. The U.S. has always had a reputation for being the land of opportunity, a place where people can start a new life no matter what past they come from. The homicides in Latin America created push factors for the caravan’s emigration, and the reputation of the United States creates pull factors for the caravan’s immigration. In this way, the caravan can be compared to the mass influx of immigrants to Ellis Island during the 1800s and early 1900s. People left their homelands, where they faced famine, disease and violence, and came to the United States in search of a better life. As it is en- graved on the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

When the caravan shows up to the golden door, the politicians need to forget their politics for a second and make a decision: do we want to continue to be seen as a safe haven for those who seek refuge from turmoil and strife, or do we now want to be seen as a nation that no longer accepts the tired, huddled masses and instead turns them back to the threat of demise in their home countries? The humanitarian in me, and hopefully the humanitarian in all of us, says the latter is not an option.

Contact Ben Becker at [email protected].