Mid-October marked the first time the world heard of the latest migrant caravan traveling from Honduras to the U.S.-Mexican border. More specifically, the caravan was a mass migration of people from nations in Central America desperately seeking asylum from their gang-riddled lands of little to no job opportunity.
What they are finding after their 2,000 miles and almost two-month-long journey is the conditions they are facing at this border crossing they are stuck in is just as, if not more, bleak.
About 5,000 refugees from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are living in tents and makeshift shelters comprised of twigs and sticks in Tijuana while awaiting for asylum or deportation.
People sleep amongst garbage. Single mothers, many widowed by murders, hold their hungry children close.
These squalid conditions are nothing compared to the U.S. Border Patrol’s use of tear gas to dispel a crowd of frustrated and tired individuals, including women and children, from the San Ysidro point of entry of the border.
David Peters, a Plattsburgh State alumnus, is in Tijuana currently driving journalists around the city and observing history being made.
“What started out as a peaceful protest at the border became a mob mentality of more energized people wanting to cross the border,” Peters said.
He watched from a distance as tension broke out amongst border patrol and the migrants who tried to run for the border crossing in a less policed section of the barrier.
He witnessed some frustrated individuals throw rocks at U.S. border patrol and tear gas thrown into the crowd in exchange.
He stated that the media has sensationalized the extent of the altercations and tensions, but that it definitely does exist.
We’ve heard the anti-migrant rhetoric and President Donald Trump’s promise of “tent-city” accomodations for those seeking asylum. And it appears the refugees are living exactly how he wants them to.
Trump has painted a picture of a gang of “stone cold criminals” pillaging their way to our sacred lands to continue lives of crime and threaten our way of life. He has yet to refer to them as disenfranchised humans, fighting their way for a better life. Trump’s statements could not be farther from the truth.
To understand the migrants, we must understand what they’re running from — La Mara Salvatrucha, or the gang commonly known as MS-13, and the horror they inflict on Central American countries.
The gang, whose motto is to “kill, rape and control,” grew from the poverty and desperation of the civil wars throughout the Northern Triangle, has contributed to the murder rates in Honduras heavily, which according to the 2018 World Report, is one of the highest in the world.
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are known as the violent and dangerous Northern Triangle of Central America.
These countries remain in the grips of fallout from civil wars, extortion, corruption and rampant crime. A harsh reality that anyone would want to escape and should be able to.
There are reports of the new President-elect of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador cutting a deal with Trump — a deal referred to as the Remain in Mexico policy, which would turn these desolate migrant camps into semi-permanent border towns for migrants to wait while they find out if they are to be deported or granted asylum.
The conditions inside this camp grows more filthy every day, and the threat of disease is present. These settlements are not meant for extended use, nor should they be allowed to house these battered migrants, whom I believe the world will try to forget about. Peters stated he believes these people are being contained and isolated to keep them and the situation out of the public eye.
A Slate article written by Leon Krauze reported that an 11-year-old boy named Jefferson with dreams of being a doctor in the United States, waits patiently in the camp.
“God willing, we can cross and my dream can come true,” he told Krauze.
We cannot forget the furiously strong and resilient souls who trudged for thousands of miles, who endured untold hardships along the way and who now face uncertainty, wasting away in these shanty towns that are not even fit for stray animals.
“[The camps] aren’t sustainable. Moves need to be made relatively quickly,” Peters said.
These people have incredible dreams and hopes for their future, and they are fighting their way toward a better reality every second that they move onward.
America once opened its borders to masses of European immigrants desperate to fulfill their right for a better life. I say, in a world of extreme wealth and resources, we have so much to spare when it comes to helping this new wave of migrants, and need to start doing so.
Email Sage Lewandowski at firstname.lastname@example.org