Humanize the Migrant Caravan

When families were being separated at the southern United States border, politicians from both sides of the aisle and the general public decried President Donald J. Trump’s administration’s actions. But the reaction has been much more muted to when United States border agents tear gassed migrant adults and children at the U.S.-Mexico border on Nov. 25.

Children, no matter the circumstance, should not be subjected to riot-suppression tactics. Rather than treating the thousands of migrants risking their lives to reach the U.S. as humans, our government is attacking and degrading them. As Americans, we should pressure the government to follow international law by taking a more compassionate stance toward displaced peoples who seek asylum. While many countries are choosing to shun migrants in the current global immigration crisis, we should opt to forge a more accepting path that falls in line with the American ideals of openness, liberty and diversity.

The migrant caravan is a group of thousands of Central-American migrants, most of them from Honduras, mainly traveling by foot to the U.S.-Mexico border. Some of these migrants are fleeing persecution and violence in their homes, while others are attempting to gain a glimpse of the so-called American Dream. It’s hard to fault people for choosing to find a better life when they are faced with a life of high crime rates and gang violence. Trump’s argument that the caravan is the deliberate “invasion” is baseless and shows a lack of empathy for people. The migrants are attempting to find sanctuary in a place where they need not worry about rampant violence. These immigrants are people like you and me, but, unlike most of us, their homes are ravaged by economic downturn and violence problems that are often wrought by U.S. foreign policy.

The migrants fleeing deplorable living conditions and human rights violations are considered refugees under international law, and their right to enter the United States is protected under the United Nations’ 1967 Refugee Protocol. No matter how they reach the U.S., they have a legal right to claim asylum. Furthermore, there are constitutional questions about whether President Trump has the power to cut back on asylum applications.

Asylum seekers should be able to claim asylum in a country that is safe for them. Rather than deal with the numerous asylum seekers, the U.S. is pushing them to seek asylum in Mexico. Mexico is not considered by Human Rights First to be a safe place to seek asylum, and the United Nations has also expressed similar concerns. While some migrants decided to stay in Mexico, others have continued their trek to the U.S. border. Near arrival, they are often spread across temporary settlements in places such as Tijuana, where they wait to be able to cross to the U.S. to process their asylum requests.

There must be comprehensive reform when it comes to the American asylum seeking process. Even though migration into the U.S. has fallen to a record low, the current administration is limiting the types of asylum seekers they will accept, such as by blocking those fleeing from domestic violence.  If we are to respect international law, the right to asylum and a commitment to democratic ideals, then we as a country must be equipped to deal with these asylum seekers in a comprehensive and fair manner.

When these migrants complete their tiring journey to a new land, they should not be welcomed with tear gas and troops, but instead with open arms.

Omar Obregon-Cuebas (20c) is from Greensboro, N.C.