Latest Caravan Crosses Guatemalan Border

By Andrew R. Arthur on October 16, 2018

In an October 15, 2018, post, I reported on a new caravan of migrants who have left the city of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on their way to Mexico, with some purportedly on their way to the United States to seek asylum. The latest news reports have indicated that the caravan has crossed into Guatemala, despite that country's efforts to prevent them from entering. In response, President Trump is threatening to cut off aid.

The Guardian (UK) reported that more than 1,600 Honduran migrants, who are on their way to the United States, crossed over the Honduras-Guatemala border on the afternoon of October 15. The group was reportedly "[s]inging the Honduran national anthem, praying and chanting, 'Yes, we can,'" as they crossed the border, on their way to the city of Esquipulas, Guatemala.

Fox News reported that the Guatemalan government took at least some efforts to stop the movement of the group into that country:

Outnumbered, the police did nothing to stop the caravan walking into Guatemalan territory after a two-hour standoff. Officers later set up a roadblock outside the city of Esquipulas. After another hours-long standoff, with officers telling them to go back to the border, the police eventually let them pass.

Further, The Guardian stated:

In a statement, the country's Institute of Migration (IGM) condemned the migrant caravan as illegal, and vowed to stop the migrants from crossing its border: "Guatemala does not promote or endorse irregular migration in any forms, [and] therefore rejects movements organized for unlawful purposes which distort human rights, like migration, for their own end."

In response, according to Fox News, President Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Honduras "immediately" if the caravan is not stopped and returned to that country.

That should not be deemed an idle threat. According to USAID, in 2016 (the last year for which complete numbers are available), Honduras received more than $127 million in total U.S. aid, the fourth highest amount in the region. Some 86 percent of that is economic aid, while only 14 percent of that aid is military.

Interestingly, The Guardian quoted "Jari Dixon, a Honduran congressman", who tweeted: "They are not seeking the American dream — they're fleeing the Honduran nightmare."

I am always left somewhat nonplused when American politicians complain about issues involving U.S. immigration policy, because they (more than anyone else) have the ability to actually change that policy. With due respect to Congressman Dixon, the same rule should apply to him. Hearing a foreign elected official complain about the "nightmare" in his or her own country raises the question of what he or she is doing about it.

In January 2018, the Pew Research Center estimated that Honduras received almost $3.7 billion in remittances from the United States in 2016, a not insignificant amount in a country in which, the CIA estimates, the official exchange rate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017 was just about $23 billion. Needless to say, a huge influx of nationals from that country to the United States would only boost that flow, giving the Honduran government at least some reasonable pause in addressing the outflow of those nationals. Assuming that representatives like Congressman Dixon believe that human resources are the country's most valuable, however, they should at least attempt to provide the conditions for their constituents to succeed at home.

Assuming also that the Guatemalan IGM is serious about stopping the caravan, there are steps that it could take to do so. In particular, according to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017 for Guatemala for 2017 from the U.S. Department of State:

The laws [in Guatemala] provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. The country approved 39 refugee applications from January through September. ... UNHCR, however, reported that identification and referral mechanisms for potential asylum seekers were inadequate. Both migration and police authorities lacked awareness of the rules for establishing refugee status.

There is no better time for Guatemala to improve the "identification and referral mechanisms for potential asylum seekers" than the present. The U.S. government, and UNHCR, should provide them with every resource needed to do so.