More than 3,000 economic migrants started out from Honduras last week hoping to reach the U.S. border where they planned to ask for political asylum. Unlike earlier caravans, where many of the migrants made it to the U.S. border, this latest attempt at an organized large-scale incursion never made it out of Honduras.
Under agreements struck by the Trump administration with Central American governments and Mexico, the caravan disbanded before people put their health and safety in jeopardy, and before U.S. border officials were forced to deal with yet another migration crisis – this time in the midst of a global pandemic. These multilateral agreements require governments in the region to prevent caravans of migrants from entering and transiting their countries, and to offer those who wish to apply for asylum the opportunity to do so. The United States also offers asylum seekers the option to file a petition at an embassy or consulate in their home countries instead of entering the U.S. illegally before claiming asylum.
These agreements are under fire from mass migration advocates and could potentially be terminated under a Biden administration. The Democratic Unity Task Force Recommendations, endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, explicitly calls for “End[ing]the Asylum Cooperative Agreements the U.S. has signed with Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.” Additionally, task force demands an “End [to]the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) also known as “Remain in Mexico.”
Without those agreement in place and being enforced, this caravan would surely have reached our southern border and spur both more caravans and less organized large-scale migrant flows.
Indisputably, the economic downturn brought on by the global COVID-19 crisis is weakening the already shaky economies of Central American and other less developed nations. Asylum policies, however, are not designed, nor can they cope with endless flows of people seeking better economic opportunities in the West. Additionally, the global pandemic adds to the risks associated with large-scale illegal migration. A resumption of caravans heading north poses dangers to the migrants, to those in the countries they pass through on their way north, and to the health of the American public should they cross our borders.
The global economic crisis is real and it is taking its toll on people in both poor and developed nations. Under current health and economic circumstances, another large and chaotic wave of migration would only exacerbate the crises that are affecting all of us.