Looming Border Showdown Is Inching Its Way North

President warns Honduras over 'caravan' of immigrants headed toward US
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2018 11:30 AM CDT
Updated Oct 16, 2018 1:40 PM CDT
Another Immigrant 'Caravan' Draws Attention of Trump
Honduran migrants making their way to the US are blocked by Guatemalan police after crossing the Honduras-Guatemala border in Esquipulas, Guatemala, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Back in April, a "caravan" of immigrants marching across Central America toward the US border drew the attention of President Trump. Now comes round two. On Tuesday, Trump issued a warning to Honduras, where most of the immigrants in the latest group are from: "The United States has strongly informed the President of Honduras that if the large Caravan of people heading to the U.S. is not stopped and brought back to Honduras, no more money or aid will be given to Honduras, effective immediately!" Background and developments:

  • The caravan: This one started last week with about 160 people in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, which the AP calls one of the most dangerous places in one of the most dangerous countries. As the group began walking out of the country, others joined, and most estimates put the current number near 2,000. The Washington Post, however, notes that volunteers suggest it's closer to 3,000, bigger than April's group.
  • The path: The group already has crossed the border into Guatemala, after police in the latter country didn't do much to stop them, reports the Guardian. Then it will be on to Mexico and the US, though if history holds, many of the migrants will break off and remain in Central America. Unlike in April, Mexico has warned that this time it will turn back anyone with improper visa requirements.

  • Why: Here's how one Honduran congressman puts it in a (Spanish-language) tweet: "They are not seeking the American dream—they're fleeing the Honduran nightmare." The group includes children and pregnant women, and members generally travel light, taking shelter where they can. Along the way, locals often help them with food and water.
  • The history: As the New York Times notes, these mass migrations aren't unusual, with the migrants choosing to travel in groups for safety. "Such caravans have been something of an annual event for years and have mostly happened without much fanfare or international attention," the story notes. But that changed in April, when US officials including Trump called attention to the group marching toward the border. In the end, hundreds were allowed to petition for US asylum, though it's unclear how many were successful.
  • The aid: The US is set to give impoverished Honduras $66 million in aid in fiscal 2019, and that money is now at risk, per the Wall Street Journal. One problem for Honduran officials is that there may not be much they can do now that the caravan has crossed into Guatemala. Still, VP Mike Pence warned Central American nations last week about this, reports Politico. "Tell your people: Don't put your families at risk by taking the dangerous journey north to attempt to enter the United States illegally," Pence said.
  • Catch and release: The caravan “is what we see day-in and day-out at the border as a result of well-advertised and well-known catch-and-release loopholes," says State Department spokeswoman Katie Waldman. It's a reference to the policy of detaining asylum seekers briefly at the border, then releasing them into the US with ankle bracelets for their pending court cases, per the Post.
  • Honduras: Why are people desperate to leave? Gang violence, one of the highest homicide rates in the world, political unrest, high unemployment, rampant corruption, etc., reports BuzzFeed. "Honduras is a pressure cooker in every single aspect," says Bertha Oliva of the Committee for Families of the Disappeared and Detainees in Honduras. "We are seeing an unprecedented violation of human rights."
One Honduran girl became a cause celebre, though her story got distorted. (More Honduras stories.)

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