Stopping Migrant Caravans Won’t Stop Them From Forming (OPINION)

Feb 2, 2021
5:07 PM

Migrants trying walk along a highway in Choloma, Honduras, Thursday, January 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Delmer Martínez)

Another migrant caravan was recently stopped on its journey to the United States by the Guatemalan police, who used batons and tear gas. This resulted in the caravan breaking away into smaller groups with some agreeing to be transported back to their home country, while the rest of the smaller groups continued their journey toward Mexico.

A December 2020 story by El Heraldo de Chiapas reported that the thousands were expected to join the caravan.

“The tropical storms that have devastated Central America forces hundreds of families to abandon their country to reach the United States,” the outlet reported.

The newly formed migrant caravan headed toward the U.S. border to escape not only natural disasters but also rising gang violence that targets primarily young people as well as poverty and joblessness exacerbated by COVID and instability in Honduras. The caravan, reports noted, also included migrants from other countries, including Cuba.

It is well known that migrants risk their lives when they choose to migrate. They often face extreme violence, harsh weather conditions, sickness, and human trafficking before they even reach the border. During the Trump administration, migrants were met with a zero tolerance policy that delayed asylum claims and separated families.

However, recent caravans and future ones risk much more.

For instance, while many businesses and restaurants are down due to COVID, the infamous Zona Norte in Tijuana —the “red light district” known as the tolerance zone for its legal prostitution— remains active with various gentlemen strip clubs and bars in the Calle Coahuila area. There, the “paraditas” known as “standing girls” risk their lives while waiting for customers, an area which is known to exploit underage girls, including underage migrant girls.

In additon, a 2018 migrant caravan reported many disappeared migrants, including that of over 100 migrants who crossed through Veracruz and were believed to have been kidnapped by cartels. With thousands of Mexicans already disappeared and the justice system known to be slow and corrupt, it is a risk migrants could face in a country already struggling with the pandemic with hospitals at capacity, patients dying in ambulances in Baja California as they wait to be seen and a rise in cartel violence—especially in Tijuana along the San Diego border where the majority of migrants choose to stay and apply for asylum.

The 2020 pandemic has only further worsened risks and conditions for migrants who are detained at the border. So far, the new Biden administration issued executive orders to address this issue, but not much has happened since the start of his presidency. A task force has been set up and there are promises of trying to find separated children, but there are still promises unfulfilled.

To be fair, President Biden and his administration have tried to put a pause on most deportations for 100 days (even with a judge trying to block it). He also suspended the Remain in Mexico order for migrants seeking asylum in the United States. The new administration also stopped the ongoing construction of the border wall and promised to work on pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people. Still, the new plan does not do much to address why migrant caravans continue to happen. It’s time to see these caravans through a more compassionate lens.


Gia Ibarra is a Mexican American bilingual writer/editor and the co-creator of Twitter: @Gia_Santos.