At the end of last week, the caravan arrived on the doorstep to Mexico. Under pressure from the U.S., Mexico offered the migrants asylum but said it would only let in groups of 150 to 200 people a day to process their requests. Anyone crossing the border illegally would be deported, Mexican officials warned.
The Honduran government estimates that 2,000 migrants returned home. Mexico says another 1,000 or so have applied for asylum. But the majority—about 5,000, according to the Mexican government—crossed the border illegally, mostly on rickety rafts run by human smugglers.
.. “We can’t get to the northern border all together” said Irineo Mujica, the head of People without Borders, a U.S.-Mexico nonprofit that has backed the caravan since its arrival in Guatemala. Such a huge group moving across Mexico days before the U.S. midterms, he added, would embolden Mr. Trump. “If this full caravan arrives to the U.S. border, it would be like a declaration of war,” Mr. Mujica said.
.. Most migrants say they want to get to the U.S. but generally don’t know what legal options they have ahead. Many said they were determined to abandon Honduras, which has among the world’s highest rates of violence. When they saw news on television that a caravan had left from San Pedro Sula heading north, many thought it was the right moment to leave.
.. She said a criminal gang extorted her family business and demanded a “war tax,” calling it that because “if you don’t pay the gang destroys your business and kills you.”
.. For many would-be migrants, leaving in a caravan is attractive because they can avoid paying some $5,000 in smugglers’ fees and are safer traveling in numbers... “Most Mexicans are sympathetic to the migrants, so politically it becomes very difficult for the government to move against the caravan given it has such visibility,” he said. “On the other hand, you don’t want to anger the U.S. and be seen as just allowing migrants to cross through your country freely.”.. On Sunday, Mr. Trump warned the migrants on Twitter that if they didn’t accept Mexico’s offer of asylum, they would be denied entry to the U.S. He said Monday the caravan included “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners,” without offering evidence... For fiscal year 2019, the U.S. plans to send about
- $70 million in aid to Guatemala,
- $66 million to Honduras and
- $46 million to El Salvador,
according to the State Department. Most of the funds go to
- violence prevention,
- justice and rule-of-law programs, along with
- funding for border and narcotics enforcement.
.. Cutting aid to Central American countries would be a mistake, since U.S. aid dollars fund programs that reduce violence, strengthen the justice system, and encourage investment that make them more attractive places for their citizens, said Marcela Escobari, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
.. Studies have shown that once a country’s GDP per capita reaches between $6,000 and $8,000, the gains from migrating somewhere become less attractive, who served under President Barack Obama as head of Latin America for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“We need to stop these countries from becoming failed states, because that’s what’s going to cause a tremendous exodus,” she said.
.. Immigrants asking for U.S. asylum either at a legal border crossing or upon being arrested by the Border Patrol for crossing illegally are subjected to a “credible fear” interview to decide if their request should be heard by an immigration judge. More than 75% of immigrants pass the so-called “credible fear bar,” according to U.S. government statistics. Those who don’t pass that initial interview are subject to deportation.
.. Immigration authorities can jail asylum seekers until their case is decided, but bed space is at a premium as the Trump administration steps up immigration enforcement both at the border and in the U.S. interior.
For those released into the U.S., a final decision could take years amid a backlog of more than 764,000 cases pending in federal immigration court. During that time, they can live in the U.S. and apply work permits, something Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized.
Administration officials told reporters that the government had reunited 57 of the 103 migrant children under the age of 5, complying with a judicial order. The other 46 were deemed “ineligible” for a variety of reasons. Some of their parents had been accused of crimes. One parent had a communicable disease. In a dozen cases, the parents had been deported already without their children, making their reunification more challenging.
“We don’t have the legal authority to bring these individuals back into the country for reunification purposes,” said Matthew Albence, executive director of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, the detention and deportation division.
But there are ways around restrictions on permitting deported parents to return to the United States. The Obama administration, in the rare cases in which such a separation occurred, issued “humanitarian parole” to the mother or father, allowing her or him to enter the United States for the purpose of picking up the child.
.. Of the migrants older than 5, the government officials would not say Thursday how many would be deemed ineligible to be reunited with their families.
Most of the families separated from their children said they were fleeing gang or domestic violence in Central America and planned to seek asylum in the United States.
In reality, MS-13 members make up a fraction of Border Patrol arrests and a small part of gang activity in the United States. While the group has committed brutal murders on Long Island, there is no evidence that the gang is increasingly sending members into the country.
.. Rather than a nationwide threat, the group is being used as a political tool used to “turbocharge the xenophobia that underlies the debate around immigration
.. MS-13 members, some 10,000 in number, make up less than 1 percent of the approximately 1.4 million gang members in the United States, according to F.B.I. estimates. Other gangs are several times larger... MS-13’s numbers are stagnant, too. While precise size estimates are hard to come by, authorities have used the same figure of about 10,000 members for over a decade. (The F.B.I. estimates the gang has between 30,000 and 50,000 members around the world.).. Far from menacing cities across the country, as Mr. Trump has suggested, the gang’s presence is concentrated in Long Island, Los Angeles and the region outside Washington... In addition, most MS-13 recruits are not migrants but teenagers who live in the United States and are alienated from their communities.. In those areas, the gang may be the only group that provides a sense of identity.. Policymakers in Central America have argued deporting criminals from the United States has exacerbated gang problems abroad, ultimately worsening crime in the United States... While MS-13 began in the 1980s as a small and unorganized street gang in Los Angeles, some evidence suggests the group expanded in Central America after the United States began deporting illegal immigrants — many with criminal backgrounds — with greater intensity in 1996. Experts have described this process as “exporting” American-style gang culture to Central America... Poor prison conditions in those countries may have also helped MS-13 become larger and better organized.. By 2008, law enforcement found evidence that MS-13 leaders in El Salvadoran prisons were ordering assassinations in Washington while making plans to unify gang groups in the United States.
“MS-13 was a gang fueled by deportation, not immigration,” Dr. Leap said.
.. Trump uses MS-13 as a political tool
At a rally last month in Nashville, Mr. Trump once again linked MS-13 to his political opponents. He has said on Twitter that Democrats are “weak on crime” along the border and are “protecting MS-13 thugs.”.. Mike Huckabee, tweeted an incendiary picture of MS-13 members, likening them to the campaign staff for Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader... MS-13 has entered the national conversation because of Mr. Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, not because it has become more threatening, Dr. Cruz said. Because of the gang’s association with Central American countries that Mr. Trump dislikes, “it’s the perfect group for him to blame,” he added.
President Trump hopes to deter the flow of migrants into the United States, but near the busy border crossing in Arizona, some said that the threat of separation from their children would not deter them.
“Why would you undertake such a dangerous journey?” said Magdalena Escobedo, 32, who works at the migrant shelter here in Tucson, called Casa Alitas. “When you’ve got a gun to your head, people threatening to rape your daughter, extort your business, force your son to work for the cartels. What would you do?”
.. Critics, including Mr. Trump, have long said that allowing migrants to go free while their immigration cases are pending encourages parents to enter the United States with children, and some conversations bear that out.
“This is the reason I brought a minor with me,” said Guillermo T., 57, a construction worker who recently arrived in Arizona. Facing unemployment at home in Guatemala, he decided to head north; he had been told that bringing his 16-year-old daughter would assure passage. He asked that only his first named be used to avoid consequences with his immigration case.
“She was my passport,” he said of his daughter.
.. they are primarily motivated to leave their countries by violence and lack of economic opportunities, phenomena which she described as closely connected.
.. She said these migrant families choose the United States because they often have networks in the country already and know that there are many job opportunities
.. his son was approached twice by a gang who demanded he join them, flashing a gun and urging him to commit his first extortion. “They kill you if you don’t obey,” said Mr. Cruz.