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Post New Immigrant Caravan Leaves Honduras (from Gary Moore)
Created by John Eipper on 01/19/19 6:45 AM

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New Immigrant Caravan Leaves Honduras (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 01/19/19 6:45 am)

Gary Moore writes:

There is a new caravan. These words are coming to seem ever-current. The new January 14 immigrant caravan leaving Honduras will, again, try to massively gain exceptional entrance to the United States--an effort now combining in news and muddled memory with the other big caravan that reached the San Diego border in November, and still others flowing into that one, not to mention the spring caravan that opened the gates nine months ago--and perhaps others innumerable to come. A new world is signaled as unauthorized migration by mass action comes to look like a more or less constant tectonic flow.

"Exceptional" and "unauthorized"--how do those verbal work-arounds sound to the word police objecting to "illegal alien"? The new caravan, already across one border in Central America, had more than a thousand participants last time I checked. This could balloon amazingly or dwindle anti-climactically. Last fall's big one--"the Caravan"--may have involved perhaps 10,000 at its peak, and successfully brought 6,000 petitioners to camp just south of the border fence in Tijuana. As the present one left Honduras this week, those still camping in Tijuana were said to number 2,500. Where did the others go? Some dispersed into Mexico, but despite the rhetoric, we don't know how many have been quietly taken into the US under overcrowded "catch and release" makeshifts. This did happen with last spring's caravan, thus beckoning to the next ones.

These crowd movements (circumventing both dangers from Mexican criminal predators and $5,000+ people-smuggling fees under the old, individual method) are not just footsore marathon hikes. Repeatedly, local authorities in Mexico or sympathizing organizations and individuals provide transportation that has escalated to 20-bus convoys crossing a thousand miles at a time. Largely unnoticed in news of the big fall caravan was the middle border city of El Paso, Texas, bypassed fully 350 miles off the caravan's route to California, and yet El Paso, too, and various other border points, are being overwhelmed by clandestine "caravans" run by smugglers, up to four buses at a time according to some glimpses, at twofer prices of $7,000 that let an accompanying child ride free--with or without fatal influenza or sepsis--for the children are "visas" or "pawns" for use in "family unit" loopholes in US admissions law (see below). “We’re in effect receiving a caravan a month,” said Ruben Garcia, director of an El Paso migrant shelter in charge of distributing the Border Patrol's "catch-and-release" overflow there, an overflow so large that Garcia's charity had to rent 70 motel rooms, $3,500 a night, though each occupant typically stays only a night or two, then ships off by public bus or even by plane to live with relatives or sponsors elsewhere in the US, further progress unannounced.

A new world? Faraway Honduras, population perhaps 10 million and the poorest nation in Latin America, is now knitted to the US by the caravans' well-worn groove of transportation nodes and awed official acquiescence. "Seventy percent of Honduras wants to leave the country," claimed Bartolo Fuentes, the obscure local activist who helped jump-start the big push, though as Fuentes keeps protesting, these sudden precipitations are partly spontaneous: textbook cases of what used to be called "collective behavior"--like bull-market buying manias or a gold rush.

Which brings up the question of what it all means, and how an intelligent observer should view this panorama--a panorama unfortunately so large, and so fraught with foreign exotica, secret machinations, and heart-wrenching desperation, that the observer's most intimate and unaccountable moral compass is pretty much left as the only determiner of how to respond. Mere facts pile up so high, on so many opposing sides, that debate is a shadow play. Wall or Welcome? The mere selection of which facts to present as first offering serves one or another body of impassioned opinion.

For example: Overall illegal immigration at the southern US border has been drastically reduced from its carnival-like peak more than a decade ago. When the year 2000 reported 1.6 million crossers detained, an old rule of thumb said that for every entrant caught, three others got through: so, perhaps 4.8 million undocumented crossers in 2000? Compare that to today, after the long-ago crisis level caused massively increased enforcement. In FY 2017, only about 400,000 illegal crossers were reported caught, and the new fortress border means the rule of thumb has tightened--so (wild guess extrapolating consensus), maybe another 400,000 getting through yearly right now? Or less? This can easily seem miniscule compared not only to the old peak but to the overall US population of 326 million, the slowing growth rate of this population (.7%) and the number of legal entrants each year (perhaps a million?). If the seepage at the southern border is less than a half million a year, that would seem to dissipate insignificantly into the national whole, representing (corrections invited) less than one percent of population growth (?)

Okay, so case closed, right? By presenting this first body of information I have completely demolished Trump's case for a border wall, haven't I? But I'm not finished. There is the other kind of information, more conceptual in nature. The large caravans are coming from Central America, along with countless similar large groups sent more secretively by international people-smugglers on midnight buses and trucks of their own, in the open intention of subverting and abrogating US law, and specifically humanitarian and asylum law. Glaringly obvious points of US law are not just being reinterpreted by Trump, but have been turned on their heads by open-border activists. This is especially true of US asylum law, the body being used by the mass petitioners. Very specific definitions of "persecution" are written into the law and would seem self-evident, but under the pressure of emotion and immigration attorneys, these points have been eerily upended, almost to the point of granting "persecuted" status to any client coached by an advocate, or by a cagey people-smuggler, or just by media buzz. If a mass of seekers can push its way just onto the first inch of US soil, it can take advantage of the loopholes by simply surrendering to the Border Patrol and applying for asylum status. This has been happening by the tens of thousands, and since mid-2018, border deterrence facilities have been very graphically swamped.

But does this matter? Would 200,000 yearly forced-entry Central Americans (interestingly, the loopholes don't as much help Mexicans, whose illegal immigration has pointedly declined) really make a disastrous difference in the much larger melting pot?

This is where the panorama again outstrips debate. The 30 million residents of the "Northern Triangle" nations in Central America are under pressures, both economic and criminal, that bid for apocalyptic new status as mitigating circumstances in determining what draconian solutions might or might not be possible for those desperate people, while the caravan movements of today might or might not assume tsunami immensity, or might recede unpredictably before new policy initiatives or even just harsh rhetoric (as the White House would seem to believe). It is this new world, with its pressures that might have seemed impossible just a generation ago, that is at the heart of the wall question (which also would have seemed impossible a generation ago). In its very nature is interpretation by means of emotion, instinct, and psychology, amid a clamor of utopian visions and knee-jerk demonizations.

Should there be a wall? Some of the factors impinging on this are inaccessible, since they lie in the future. In a shouting match between abstract visions of what that future will most likely be, which side will win?

And which side should?

JE comments:  I promised this one from Gary Moore yesterday, but better late than...

In any case, the sea change of "then" vs "now" is that instead of sneaking across the border, immigrants now show up and apply for asylum.  This obviates the point of a Wall, and cries out for some sort of asylum clarification or reform.  But of course, as Gary Moore rightly observes, we're caught in the trap of demonization vs Utopian visions.  No rational compromise has thus far been possible.


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