Sometimes things in life are co-incidences. They just happen for reasons that are not fully explainable, but the circumstances are just questionable. For example, as CBS News reports, a migrant caravan has just set off from Honduras, scarcely a month before the Presidential elections.
Hundreds of migrants began walking Wednesday night from [San Pedro Sula] in northern Honduras toward the Guatemala border, testing a well-trod migration route now in times of the novel coronavirus. Calls for a new migrant caravan to leave from the San Pedro Sula bus station October 1 had been circulating on social media for weeks.
The caravan comes just two weeks after Guatemala reopened its borders after keeping them sealed for months to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But the majority of the migrants who gathered Wednesday decided not to wait for October, instead setting out in the dark of night carrying knapsacks and many wearing masks. (source)
For those who are not aware, a quick search reveals that San Pedro Sula has been known for decades as the murder capitol of the world. While naturally such a city would have a lot of emigrants (who wants to stay there?), and while it is natural to mention places in stories, the name and images it could conjure up at the current time- a month before an election -is very interesting.
We know for a fact that migrant caravans have been coming to the US for years, one after the other. Therefore, this news in and of itself as a singular item is not special. What makes it so interesting is the timing.
One may remember back in 2018 during the election cycle when the “migrant caravan” from Central America heading to the US- something that is very common -resulted in a fire-filled political campaign as Marsha Blackburn. who was running for Senate in Tennessee, attacked the people coming as possible “gang members, known criminals, people from the Middle East (yes, this phrase was used) and possibly even terrorists”. The advertisement speaks for itself.
There were many questions about the ‘caravan’, but perhaps the most interesting one was the timing. Why this one? Why report on this now? The answer, while not really given, is that it seems it is being used for political purposes.
I am not saying that the caravan intentionally left for political reasons. I am saying that this particular caravan just may have been in the ‘right place at the right time’, if that makes sense, for political usefulness.
The groups quickly strung out along the highway with some catching rides while others continued to walk toward the Guatemala border.
Late Wednesday, Guatemala’s immigration agency said in a statement that its counterpart in Honduras said about 900 migrants were in the city of Choloma and were headed to the border crossing at Corinto.
Governments throughout the region made it known they were watching Wednesday. Mexico’s immigration agency said in a statement that it would enforce “safe, orderly and legal” migration and not do anything to promote the formation of a migrant caravan. The U.S. Embassy in Honduras said via Twitter Wednesday that migration to the U.S. was more difficult than ever right now and more dangerous because of COVID-19.
It should be noted that the reason why these people travel in “caravans” is not because of some attempt to “invade” the US and “storm” the border, but because there is safety in numbers.
The journey for migrants to the US is extremely dangerous. Because of the lack of law and order (effectively speaking) in many parts of Central America, these people are regularly attacked and even tortured or murdered, and sometimes have their organs harvested. Governments often do not care about their welfare, and so they are left to fend for themselves.
But the push factors driving migrants from Central America certainly haven’t eased during the pandemic. The lack of jobs and struggle for families to put food on the table have only worsened.
The U.N.’s International Labour Organization said Wednesday that at least 34 million jobs have been lost in Latin America due to the coronavirus pandemic. The ILO lists Latin America and the Caribbean as the worst-hit region in the world in terms of lost working hours, with a drop of 20.9% in the first three quarters of the year.
The flow of migrants north from Central America had slowed dramatically during the pandemic as countries throughout the region closed their borders. Most migrant shelters along the principle routes north through Mexico closed their doors to new arrivals as they tried to keep the virus from spreading to vulnerable migrant populations. Mexico and the United States deported hundreds of migrants back to their home countries to try to empty detention centers.
This is a very true statement. The rate of migration, especially with COVID-19, has slowed a lot of the migrant flow down. However, migration is not going to stop, and since the US holds much greater job prospects than does really any nation in Latin America owing to her size, power, influence, and most importantly, proximity, she is going to be a destination for migrants as always from all parts of Central America. After all, if, as I have noted, the journey from remote parts of Guatemala to Texas is basically a road trip from New York to the Colorado-Nebraska border in terms of miles, and that the furthest travel from Interamericana, Panama (essentially the road end border in Panama before Colombia) to San Antonio is shorter than a drive from New York City to San Francisco, as long as those nations are destabilized, there will be people willing to risk the journey.
The real question here, trend-wise, is whether or not migration is going to pick up again (in terms of numbers of migrants coming), and if so, how much? It is likely that it will return, but the rate is yet to be seen, since that would depend most likely on political factors, and not related to the 2020 election, but more importantly, to 2024, since if Trump wins (the likely scenario), an ascendant Democrat in 2024 could either intensify migration, or perhaps, take a “southern Democrat” type route and actually push to limit immigration while liberalizing other issues, using the Democrat Hispanic base that will have more progressively “Americanized” at that point to the level where they would be more susceptible to the same manipulation seen among “native” (meaning “those who have lived in the US for multiple generations) Americans.
We do not know what will happen. However, we can say that migration is sure to be an issue. As far as this election, however, this “caravan” is most likely not the fantasy of Marsha Blackburn’s 2018 campaign, but is filled with poor, hungry, desperate people, whose choice time of departure was just too ideal to exploit for the next month until the election passes.