Central Americans are willing to risk all in pursuit of what almost no other country can offer.
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A young Honduran man was worried, and you could see it on his face: Clutching his 1-year-old son, he looked back apprehensively toward the barrier he just crossed. He was on United States soil and he knew that he did not have authorization to be there.
It was the middle of the night on November 29, at the U.S.-Mexico border. The man, holding his toddler close, decided to take a chance, looking for a different, better life than the one he had back in Honduras or in a bleak, overcrowded shelter in Tijuana. He knew he would likely be arrested, but it was worth the risk if it meant he could apply for asylum in the U.S.
Earlier in the night, several swam around or climbed over the border barrier and were quickly detained by Border Patrol agents.
But the young man, his son bundled up against the night chill in a hooded jacket, leggings and boots, waited. When he saw an opportunity, he climbed over the border barrier as people on the Mexican side held his son, then handed the child through the bars. After a swift look back, he disappeared into the night, walking up a slope toward a second barrier wall on the U.S. side.
He is among more than 6,000 migrants from Central America who are in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego, California. The group, which started spontaneously in Honduras with about 160 people leaving the gang-plagued city of San Pedro Sula, is the largest to ever reach the Mexican border in hope of crossing into the U.S.
Mexican officials are expending resources to shelter them as they wait to enter the U.S. But the migrants, after weeks of being packed in an open-air sports complex designed to hold 3,500, are becoming increasingly desperate.
On November 25, U.S. border agents fired tear gas on hundreds of migrants protesting near the border with Mexico after some of them attempted to get through the fencing and wire separating the two countries. The showdown threw into sharp relief two competing narratives about the caravan of migrants hoping to apply for asylum but stuck on the Mexican side.
Liberals say conservatives assume migrants are dangerous and want to send them back home, which liberals argue defies the principles America was founded on. Conservatives say liberals want them to come in freely, which conservatives say would allow gang members and other criminals to enter and endanger society.
Tension over border policy supercharged U.S. midterm elections.
“I think it’s so unprecedented that everyone is hanging their own fears and political agendas on the caravan,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think-tank focused on immigration. “You can call it scary, you can call it hopeful, you can call it a sign of human misery. You can hang whatever angle you want to on it.”
But what both sides of the political spectrum miss is that the extent to which the caravan is willing to go emphasizes something unique about the United States of America.
Despite the conditions in the camp and the difficulty of securing asylum in the U.S., most migrants feel the alternative—staying in their home countries—is not an option.
Primarily from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, they faced rampant poverty, political instability and some of the highest violence rates in the world.
Miguel Ortiz of Honduras reclined in a pig trailer with his wife and son. They were headed to the U.S. for a better life where they could work for more than just putting food on the table.
“I decided to come [with the caravan] to help my family,” Maria Yesenia Perez, a 41-year-old who left La Ceiba, Honduras, told The Associated Press. She and her 8-year-old daughter were hoisted onto the back of a semitrailer on their way to the border.
Astrid Daniela Aguilar, who was traveling with two cousins ages 3 and 4, lined up alongside the highway to await a chance at hitching a ride.
“You can’t find work there,” she said of her home country of Honduras.
“Many are running for their lives,” Chicago Tribune reported. “El Salvador has the highest homicide rate on the planet. ‘Migrants from all three countries cite violence, forced gang recruitment, and extortion, as well as poverty and lack of opportunity,’ reports the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. Vicious criminal gangs live off drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion, and governments hobbled by corruption can’t stop them. About 60 percent of Hondurans and half of Guatemalans live in poverty.”
Perhaps the main reason for the exodus of people is a lack of food. “The focus on violence is eclipsing the big picture—which is that people are saying they are moving because of some version of food insecurity,” Robert Albro, a researcher at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, told The Guardian.
Nearly 60 percent of Guatemalan migrants cited drought as their reason for leaving.
One Honduran farmer abandoned his lands after repeated failures of his crops, maize and beans.
“It didn’t rain this year. Last year it didn’t rain,” he said. “My maize field didn’t produce a thing. With my expenses, everything we invested, we didn’t have any earnings. There was no harvest.”
He “hit the road in early October and joined the migrant caravan,” the news outlet continued. “He left behind a wife and three children—ages 16, 14 and 11—who were forced to abandon school because [he] couldn’t afford to pay for their supplies.”
Aid workers and humanitarian organizations must bear the brunt of helping maintain the stress of an influx of needy people. Lice infestations and respiratory infections are rampant at the Tijuana complex.
The one large, wedding-style tent pitched in the middle of a sports field and several smaller ones with a capacity for just a few hundred people were far from adequate for the swelling number of migrants who keep arriving daily. Most were camped in makeshift enclosures made of lashed blankets and sheets of plastic or flimsy tents. Others have slept on sidewalks because they could not find space in the complex or decided it was more comfortable outside.
The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, said it was “deeply concerned” for the well-being of more than 1,000 migrant children.
“These children have limited access to many of the essential services they need for their well-being, including nutrition, education, psychosocial support and health care,” UNICEF said. Making the situation worse, the agency’s workers had to compromise as it lost space on a baseball field after the arrival of more migrants.
“The overcrowding here causes them to get into places where they shouldn’t like under the bleachers” where it is filthy, a health volunteer said. “There’s overcrowding and very few hygiene norms…With the water and the cold there are going to be too many infections, a lot of fevers. There is going to be a need for antibiotics.”
Rene Vazquez, 60, a Tijuana resident who was volunteering at the stadium, said Mexico’s federal government ignored the problem by allowing the caravan to cross the country without stopping. Now the city of 1.3 million is stuck with the fallout.
Mr. Vazquez plays on a soccer team that uses the sports complex, but since his soccer team can no longer practice there, he was spending time passing out donated pizzas and roasted chicken to the migrants.
A health volunteer said opening another shelter could help, but he was not sure how many of the migrants would go, especially if it is located far from the border.
“The thing is, they don’t like to separate from the larger group and the border here,” he said, noting that the migrants feared being tricked and deported. “They prefer to suffer to be here.”
Even if the U.S. wanted to let all the migrants in, the process would not be easy.
The migrants must put their names on a waiting list to apply for asylum that already had some 3,000 people on it before the caravan arrived in Tijuana. With U.S. officials processing fewer than 100 claims a day, the wait time for the recent arrivals stands to take months.
For the most part, the migrants are waiting to enter the U.S. legally. One of them, Ilse Marilu, 24, who arrived with her 3-year-old daughter, planned to stay in Tijuana until caravan leaders arrived and offered help on how to seek asylum in the U.S.
“We are going to enter through the front door,” Mrs. Marilu said to The Associated Press, insisting she would never try to enter the country illegally.
However, others like Henry Salinas, 30, of Honduras, have different intentions. He said that he intended to wait for thousands more in the caravan to arrive and that he hoped to jump the fence in a large group at the same time with the goal of overwhelming Border Patrol agents.
The likelihood of this occurring increases with time as migrants continue to hold out in camps. And as it does, the response from the U.S. will likely become more assertive.
President Donald Trump even warned that the U.S. may close the border—which could disrupt billions of dollars in trade—should the group at the border become more aggressive.
Immigration on America’s southern border has always been a complex challenge, as examples from the past show.
Since 2016, thousands of Haitians who also tried to get to the U.S. ended up settling in Tijuana. At the same time, the city has taken in thousands of Mexicans deported from the United States.
“For years, Central America has endured a humanitarian crisis,” Chicago Tribune stated. “It was easy for Americans to ignore, but now we realize how civil strife, poverty and organized crime in our backyard endanger us.”
“From 2014 through 2017, reports The Wall Street Journal, immigration authorities in the U.S. and Mexico apprehended more than 335,000 migrants from El Salvador alone. Since 2014, the number of U.S. asylum applications from those countries has quadrupled.”
As the U.S. continues to grapple with how to handle the increasing influx of refugees, it must recognize what the travelers see in the country that makes them want to come here so badly.
Even when Mexico offers refuge, asylum or work visas to migrants, most vow to continue on into the U.S. Clearly the United States has something migrants seek that cannot even be obtained anywhere else.
Some see material prosperity. “We can earn more [in the U.S.] and give something to our family. But there [in Honduras] even when we want to give something to our children, we can’t because the little we earn it’s just for food, to pay the house and the light, nothing else,” said Nubia Morazan, 28, of Honduras to AP as she prepared to set out with her husband and two children.
Immigrants see that Americans are not spending almost everything they make on transportation, with little left for food. And that they never have to borrow money from gang members who charge exorbitant interest. (If you are unable to repay $250 to a gangbanger in Honduras, your debt becomes $700 accompanied by death threats.)
Migrants see an overall better quality of life in the states. They realize that even those who live in “bad” American neighborhoods merely long to move to a better one in the country rather than abandon their citizenship and take off.
Americans are generally not willing nor have a need to slog hundreds of miles underneath a baking sun or clamber aboard foul-smelling garbage trucks to travel toward another country.
Clearly, immigrants see the U.S. with different eyes than most Americans. To them, Americans have been blessed with what no other country can claim.
Destitute peoples of other nations recognize and are reaching for those blessings—and understandably so.
And the fact that many Americans are wary of so many thousands of people trying to enter the country at once helps prove that they are holding onto something special. Americans understand they are blessed with stability, wealth and peace to an extent very few other nations have, and they want to keep those blessings. Some fear losing jobs to immigrants. Some are anxious about threats to their security, comfort and national pride.
Both sides do have a legitimate desire to enjoy such good things. But neither pauses to consider where these blessings originate.
The fact that the U.S. rose quickly to become the most powerful and prosperous nation in history in a relatively short period of time is an anomaly to historians. But most do not realize that this was foretold to occur—millennia ago!
The editor-in-chief of this magazine, David C. Pack, detailed this in his book America and Britain in Prophecy. In it, he states: “The most sought-after destinations for immigration by the oppressed peoples of the world for over a century have been America, Britain and various commonwealth countries. The very mention of these nations became associated with freedom and prosperity!”
The book further explains that these blessings were promised to the descendants of a righteous man who lived over 3,000 years ago: “Remember God’s promise to Abraham: ‘that in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed My voice’ (Gen. 22:17-18).”
The book also states: “Abraham’s heirs were to be: (1) A great people, in tremendous strength and numbers—‘as the stars of the skies’; (2) they were to be a source of help to other nations—they would, in type, ‘benefit all the nations of the earth’; and (3) they were to possess the ‘gates of their enemies’—key strategic sea ‘gates,’ which would help establish and fortify world dominance! Through identifying the PEOPLE receiving these blessings—the descendants of Abraham are discovered!”
Think: A single great, powerful nation with a large population. It benefits other nations around the world rather than crushes or conquers them—no other country has offered more humanitarian assistance than the United States. It controlled crucial trade routes, military strongholds, and natural barriers—the Panama Canal, Guam, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska’s Aleutian Islands and more.
For further proof that Abraham’s blessed descendants are the peoples of the United States as well as Britain and its Commonwealth nations, read Mr. Pack’s book. It will also explain how these blessings came to be, and God’s purpose in giving them.
Those in the migrant caravan are striving to attain these unprecedented blessings, all given to the U.S. as a result of God’s promise to one faithful man.
Yet know that God does not intend to leave the rest of the world out on such benefits. The same Bible that foretold what so many immigrants are today seeking also has more to say about how God intends to bless all other nations and end their plight.
For more on this, read Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View!