On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that in coordination with state governors, National Guard troops would be deployed to serve as “an immediate deterrent while dramatically enhancing operational control over the border.” Congress will determine the duration of the deployment, the Homeland Security announcement said.
Trump’s tweets, including an accusation that “our country is being stolen,” follows Fox News coverage about a self-declared “caravan” moving through Mexico consisting of less than 1,000 people, mostly from Honduras and other Central American countries. The “caravan” actually represents an annual civil rights demonstration coinciding with Easter and designed to draw attention to the plight of Central Americans fleeing gang violence and government crackdowns.
In interviews, some of those traveling in the caravan said it was safer to travel through Mexico in a group, adding that they intended to seek asylum in Mexico, if not the United States. U.S. State Department and other research has noted that Honduras and El Salvador as afflicted with some of the world’s highest murder rates, as well as judicial dysfunction and criminal organizations that prey on the vulnerable.
But the Trump Administration has taken a tough stance on Central American asylum seekers, aiming to a staunch a flow that grew in recent years to include teens and young children. The Homeland Security announcement noted that nearly 50 percent of those intercepted at the border are now Central Americans. Before 2009 about 90 percent were Mexican. The agency blamed a growth in claims of “credible fear” — a step to requesting asylum — on “asylum fraud.” The administration complains that thousands then end up released into the United States and don’t show up for proceedings.
The path to asylum isn’t easy: If they’re able to enter and pass that initial test in a quest for asylum, migrants must then attempt to convince U.S. officials they face mortal danger — often because of extortion, attempted recruitment, rape and death threats, as the Center for Public Integrity has reported.
As in overall apprehensions, however, far fewer of these would-be asylum seekers could be entering now, judging from recent Border Patrol statistics. During the first five months of the 2018 fiscal year — between October 2017 and the end of February 2018 — there were 15,575 apprehensions of unaccompanied minors along the border. That’s a 37 percent decline from the 27,552 minors taken into custody during the same time frame last year. The number of “family units,” or a child and parent, apprehended fell by 46 percent, from 57,265 during last year’s first five-month period to 31,112 so far this year.
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