Seeking Asylum Is Not a Crime
Facts and Opinions on the Migrant Caravan
If you’ve heard about the migrant caravan, you might picture it being a big, scary, gang of criminals who are trying to violently storm the border and invade the United States. If you believe Donald Trump’s fear mongering and Republican vote baiting, that’s definitely what you’re picturing.
Here is a brief and more realistic explanation of what is really happening:
Around 10,000 refugees from Central America (mainly Honduras, but also Guatemala and El Salvador) have gradually formed into large groups as they travel towards the US border. They are fleeing extreme violence, persecution, gangs, drugs, poverty, and corruption. Travelling in groups affords them extra protection from these and other potential threats during their 4,000+ kilometre journey, most of which is being made by foot.
So far, approximately 5,000 of these migrants have made it to the US border with the intention of claiming asylum. They are seeking safety, comfort, and opportunities that they can not get in their home countries, or in Mexico, where they are temporarily being housed in refuge shelters. The longevity of their stay, their general welfare, their safety, and their freedom can not be guaranteed. Asylum seekers in the US are entitled to a hearing of their asylum claim, regardless of if they have entered the country legally or not. Despite that, Donald Trump has threatened to shut down the United States-Mexico border, potentially permanently. Further still, US border authorities have been limiting the number of asylum claims that can be made each day to 40-100. Because of this, the process to submit and approve all of the claims could take years.
This weekend, about 500 migrants were peacefully protesting these delays at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry in Tijuana. A small group of protestors started pushing on and attempting to get through the barbed wire fence that divides Tijuana and San Diego. A number of others threw rocks at Border Patrol agents, who were suited in tactical gear, bullet proof vests, and helmets. The agents fired tear gas at the entire group of protestors, which included innocent children, many of which were barefoot and wearing nothing but t-shirts and diapers.
Seeking asylum is not a crime. But those doing so are being treated like criminals. They are being unlawfully detained, doused in toxic chemicals, deprived of proper food and water, and face deportation back to the unfathomably dangerous countries they fled in the first place.
However arbitrary and exclusionary the concept of barring people from crossing made up borders may seem to me, the United States is still well within its rights to protect their country and their citizens from potentially dangerous people. That is what the asylum claim and hearing process is designed to do. But when that process is deliberately being slowed to a halt, the rights, or lack thereof, of these migrants is what comes to mind. We are all human beings. Some of us just happened to be fortunate enough to have been born in countries where, for the most part, we have the privilege and luxury of feeling safe. Who are we to tell those born elsewhere that they are not entitled to that same freedom?
Sherman, Christopher. "U.S. Agents Fire Tear Gas on Migrants Approaching Border." Time, http://time.com/5462886/migrants-central-america-mexico-border/. Accessed 27 November 2018
"Migrant caravan: What is it and why does it matter?". BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45951782. Accessed 27 November 2018
Domonoske, Camila. "FACT CHECK: What's Happening On The U.S.-Mexico Border?" National Public Radio, https://www.npr.org/2018/11/27/670807343/fact-check-whats-happening-on-the-u-s-mexico-border. Accessed 27 November 2018
Riotta, Chris. "Migrants face unlawful detention and squalid conditions at US-Mexico border, report alleges". Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/migrant-caravan-us-mexico-border-asylum-conditions-tear-gas-women-children-trump-amnesty-a8654376.html. Accessed 27 November 2018