Ongoing story following the public journey of Central American migrants to the US border
The Refugee Caravan is a group of migrants who traveled together across Mexico to the US border in a peaceful protest. The group left Ciudad Tecun Uman, Guatemala, on April 9th, and arrived in Tijuana, Mexico on Sunday May 7th. They were met by friends and allies holding a border action to support the Caravan and defend asylum seekers’ rights as the refugees applied for asylum. Throughout the Caravan’s 4,000 kilometer journey (about 2500 miles), the Caravan participants have walked, bused and also traveled atop cargo trains, known in Mexico as “La Bestia,” (The Beast).The Refugee Caravan was organized and supported by the collaboration of activist groups Pueblo Sin Fronteras and Cultura Migrante.
The refugees who arrived in Tijuana Sunday included dozens of women, men, children, unaccompanied minors and members of the queer community. The refugees are all Central Americans fleeing threats to their lives and persecution in their home countries. They are men threatened for exposing corruption, youth who have escaped criminal enslavement by gangs, domestic violence survivors and families faced with death threats. Their ages range from newborn to older than fifty.
Sunday afternoon the Caravan held a press conference outside the offices of Grupos Beta (a Mexican immigration agency). The Caravan denounced the “collaboration of US and Mexican authorities in deterring asylum seekers,” according to a press release.
Later that day the refugees- accompanied by volunteers, human rights observers and organizers- marched to the San Ysidro port of entry border to the US, and the refugees presented their case for asylum. All 76 people in the Caravan were accepted for processing at the port of entry.
The Caravan issued a press release demanding the “US government process [the refugees’] claims as required under the law by referring them for a credible or reasonable fear interview, and not turn them away as US Customs & Border Protection agents have frequently and increasingly done.”
According to the United Nations, an asylum seeker is someone whose “request for sanctuary has yet to be processed.” The asylum process includes a formal interview to determine “reasonable fear” of returning to the the applicant’s home country, and can take many years to process. There are about one million people a year seeking asylum.
According to international law, accepting asylum seekers is a country’s responsibility. Unfortunately, critics within the US say that this is not always the case, and people are routinely turned away.
Families in the Refugee Caravan spent time together on the journey, unsure of their fate together when they arrived at the US border. Throughout the process, many families could be split up in immigrant detention centers for long periods of time. Regardless of the challenges ahead, a recent Refugee Caravan Press Release stated,
“Trump would have us believe that his campaign of hate is working, that the people have given up. The Caravan is here to tell the world that the people of Central America have not given up, the people of Mexico have not given up, and the people of the United States have not given up. We will stand side by side in solidarity in the face of hatred and fear.”
For future updates from the Refugee Caravan and Pueblo Sin Fronteras, you can now sign up here.