Large Caravan of Migrants Heading to the U.S. Border
Thousands of migrants, mostly from Venezuela, are headed to the U.S. border from the southern tip of Mexico. Covering several lanes of a highway, the caravan of approximately 6,000 people, including many children, set off from the border city of Tapachula early Monday morning. Although Mexico’s National Institution for Migration has not provided an estimate of the group’s size, Reuters reported that this could be one of the largest migrant caravans in recent years.
The group’s organizer, Luis Garcia Villagran, timed the 1,270-mile journey to coincide with the Summit of the Americas, a major meeting of leaders from the countries in North, South, and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. The conference takes place from June 6-10 in Los Angeles, California, home to the largest Hispanic community in the United States. Post-pandemic economic recovery, climate change, a $300 million commitment for regional food security, and migration are the main issues on the agenda.
In an interview with Reuters, Villagran emphasized that the group represents people from various nationalities who are all fleeing instability, violence, and poverty.
“We strongly urge those who attend the summit to look at what is happening, and what could happen even more often in Mexico, if something is not done soon,” said the caravan leader.
Thirty-five-year-old Colombian migrant Robinson Reyes is journeying to the Texas border after waiting in vain for a month in Mexico for a humanitarian visa.
“We are not violent,” he said. “We just want a better future.”
The Summit of the Americas
President Joe Biden will hold a meeting with regional leaders this Friday to sign a declaration addressing migration.
Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua — all significant source countries for migrants — will not be attending the discussion after being excluded from the conference by the White House. Earlier this week, senior officials from the Biden administration cited the lack of democracy and deterioration of human rights in all three countries as to why they have not been invited. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded by announcing that he would be boycotting the conference but sending his foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard.
“There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if not all countries of the American continent are taking part,” President Lopez Obrador insisted.
There are questions about how efficient the discussion of migration will be since many leaders from key nations will not be present at the conference.
The Immigration Policy Perspective
Lora Ries, the director of Border Security and Immigration Center at the Heritage Foundation, is concerned over the legitimacy of the asylum seekers trekking to the southern border.
“If you are seeking asylum, you are fleeing for your life,” she told The Washington Stand. “You are claiming that you had past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution. If you’re truly fleeing for your life, you would ask for safety in the first safe country in which you arrive, not traverse multiple countries just to country shop and ask for it in the U.S.”
With more than 25 years of experience in the immigration and homeland security arena, Ries believes the U.S. cannot keep “throwing money” at the problem and expect change.
“How can we expect those countries to build up solid labor forces and build their economy if we encourage their working-age adults to come to the U.S. and stay here?”
In January 2019, the Trump administration enacted the Migration Protection Protocol (MPP), a U.S. government border enforcement program that returned certain migrants who arrived at the border to Mexico while they waited for their immigration legal proceedings. Between January 2019 and March 2020, 70,000 people were deported to Mexico. Once Biden took office, the MPP program was terminated.
“This administration is seeking to do three things: process large numbers of migrants into the country across the southern border using parole, violate the parole statutes, and give them asylum very quickly,” Ries explained. “Even though most of the people crossing the southern border are not eligible for asylum under the law. And it just encourages more asylum fraud. It increases the backlog of immigration benefit applications.”
When asked what she hopes will come out of the Summit of the Americas, Ries shared that she would like to see leaders focus on regional “cooperation” in building solid labor forces and improving supply chain issues that will, in turn, boost the economies of various nations. She encourages all the leaders from the Western Hemisphere to collaborate economically while making a firm commitment to go after crime and the drug trade.
“There’s a real opportunity for our leaders, both in the U.S. and this region, to design and develop,” said Ries.
The Christian Perspective
Oftentimes, news regarding immigration creates a tension between national security and protecting vulnerable people.
“As a Christian, I am grieved by the violence and suffering that is causing immigrants to flee their home countries,” Family Research Council’s David Closson admitted. “While widespread suffering is a hallmark of a post-Genesis 3 world, Christians should never become numb to the very real human cost of evil,” the director of FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview explained.
Closson emphasized that God is clear about the Christian responsibility to welcome outsiders. At the same time, He recognized the government’s responsibility to “uphold justice” and for citizens to follow the “rule of law” as stated in Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-14.
“We are called to care for the widows, the orphans, and those who are suffering while also respecting the rule of law,” said Closson.
“We recognize that some responsibilities, like protecting our borders, are delegated to the government while our spiritual responsibilities exist independent of how the political structure is formulated above us. These spiritual tasks include sharing the gospel and providing prayer, love, and charity. Churches and individual Christians should do what they can to serve those that God has providentially placed in their path.”