It started with several hundred people in Honduras on Oct. 12th. In ten days, the “migrant caravan” of foreign citizens claiming they plan to stampede U.S. borders swelled to more than 7,000 people. They have marched approximately 445 miles across Honduras, Guatemala, and into Mexico, with apparently no resistance from those governments.
Many have seen the images of a seemingly endless flood of people as part of this “caravan.” They may still be a thousand miles away from the closest U.S.-Mexico border crossing point, but we can already feel their presence.
Some important questions deserve answers: How have thousands of people, including some women and children, but mostly young men, been able to cover 445 miles in 10 days and still going strong? Why now? Who organized them? Who provided funding?
Many say “poverty and violence” in countries like Honduras and El Salvador are forcing people to leave. While that explanation is tenable, it doesn’t explain the timing of this so-called caravan, because people in these countries have experienced poverty and violence for decades. And they weren’t storming U.S. borders all that time.
According to Pew Research, 64.5 percent of Hondurans were living in poverty in 2013, and that number hasn’t changed since 2004. In 2012, national poverty rates in El Salvador were 34.5 percent, and in Guatemala, 53.7 percent. As measured by gross domestic product, in Spanish-speaking Latin America these three countries are the most dependent on money sent back from their citizens who live and work in the United States, called remittances.
For example, in 2012, 15.7 percent of Honduras’s GDP ($3 billion) came from remittances, the vast majority of which were U.S.-based. That compares with 16.5 percent of El Salvador’s GDP and 10 percent of Guatemala’s GDP based on remittances.
In addition to poverty, there is violence. Honduras leads the world with the highest homicide rate — more than twice the rate in El Salvador and Guatemala, and more than four times the rate in Mexico. San Pedro Sula in Honduras — the largest source of unaccompanied minors — is the world’s “murder capital.”
Unfortunately for people of these countries, poverty and violence are not something new. There are also no indications or news reports showing that economic and security situations in these countries have suddenly taken a turn for the worse. So why, out of the blue, have such large number of people all chosen to march into the United States illegally at the same time?
We are only two weeks away from a midterm election. It appears someone or some organization is determined to make immigration an election-year issue. It’s unlikely thousands of people are traveling in such a scale and at such a distance without someone or some group organizing and funding it. Fox News contributor Sarah Carter reported the caravan is mostly men, and that several said it was indeed organized, although no one gave a name.
Mostly men now crossing the #Guatamalen border – rehearsed answer “this is not politics – this is about poverty.” There were women and children but they were at the front of the caravan (smaller numbers). None would say who the organizers are but several said it was organized. pic.twitter.com/MrojSwL3Ul
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) October 22, 2018
Media reports on who organized and funded it are inconsistent, as The Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson noted in a tweet:
Conflicting facts in the media about who's organizing the caravan. @nytimes fact-check two days ago says Pueblos sin Fronteras (which has led past caravans) isn't running this one…But the person leading/speaking for the caravan, Denis Omar Contreras, is a PSF organizer? pic.twitter.com/AgdW2YzT7S
— Peter J. Hasson (@peterjhasson) October 22, 2018
Other media outlets, such as The Wall Street Journal, confirm that People Without Borders, a U.S.-Mexico organization that has supported migrant caravans in the past, is at least one group that is leading the current caravan. Irineo Mujica, the head of People without Borders and one of the main organizers of last spring’s migrant caravan, traveled to Mexico from the United States and was reportedly arrested in southern Mexico while taking part in the current caravan.
Some people believe George Soros and his organization Open Society Foundations provided the funding and organization of the caravan. Both have denied any involvement. One thing we can be sure is that whoever organized and funded the caravan is taking advantage of the situation for political gain, perhaps hoping President Trump will fulfill his promise to send the U.S. military to the border to stop thousands of people from stampeding across. Optics matter. Any image of armed men confronting women and children will cause wide condemnation and surely energize Democrat voters, as if they need further “proof” that Trump is turning the United States into a fascist state.
But this strategy will likely backfire, similar to the strategy of trying to sink Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination with uncorroborated claims. So far, immigration hasn’t really become a midterm election issue for most GOP candidates, including those in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. But as the situation on the ground is changing, as the image of seemingly unstoppable and endless human waves keep marching closer to our borders, immigration has quickly become one of the defining issues for GOP candidates.
The left forced the Associated Press to apologize on Monday after it tweeted the caravan represents a “ragtag army of poor.” But even Mujica told The Wall Street Journal, “If this full caravan arrives to the U.S. border, it would be like a declaration of war.” Not only would the Republican base likely agree, but many moderate Democrats and independents may concede that it’s an invasion when a massive crowd presents itself on the border and demands entry.
The caravan compelled all Americans, including politicians, to face the consequences of years of inaction on immigration reform. It lays bare a fundamental question of U.S. politics. Are we a sovereign nation that insists on law and order and will defend ourselves from unwanted invasion, or do we have open borders regardless of where and when and how people cross?
When facing such choices, many moderate Americans who are generally sympathetic to the plight of immigrants and supportive of their right to pursue happiness will likely demand immigrants only be admitted in an orderly fashion by legal means. No matter how welcoming we are, none of us like to embrace any stranger who pushes open our front door and demands to stay.
In other words, the more illegal entries such as the caravan are forced upon our borders, the more Americans will demand law and order. This is why earlier this year a left-leaning poll shows the majority of Americans agree with almost all of Trump’s immigration proposals, including ending chain migration, creating a visa lottery, and using merit-based immigration.
A recent editorial at The Washington Examiner reminds us that a “‘people without borders’ is a people without democracy.” The American people want a reasonable solution to our broken immigration system, and we are tired of lawlessness. It’s time for GOP candidates, especially those in the border states, to speak about immigration with clarity and conviction. If they can do that, the GOP may find itself winning again.
The following correction has been made to this article:
A correction in my article about the distance the migrant caravan has traveled in 10 days. Based on data provided @USATODAY , the caravan has traveled 445 miles in 10 days, not 1,000 miles. They are about 1,000 miles away from the U.S. My apology. https://t.co/GyY43sy6ja
— Helen Raleigh (@HRaleighspeaks) October 24, 2018