Telling the Stories of the Migrant Caravan
News of the migrant caravan making its way to the United States Border has populated the front page of liberal and conservative publications alike. This caravan has fostered fear about illegal immigration, has been dramatized for the media, and has created a platform for President Donald Trump to spew false facts about the nature of the people occupying the caravan and their aspirations for entering the country. What is left out of these presidential statements and reports are the intimate and heartbreaking stories of the people risking their lives for better opportunities for themselves and their children; a twisted 2018 take on the American Dream.
Throughout the caravan’s journey, Donald Trump and those around him have continued their brigade of labeling all migrants as criminals, sex offenders, terrorists, members of ISIS, and drug dealers. These are all shockingly wrong and unsubstantiated arguments considering just how thorough our nation’s vetting process is and that the majority of the attacks on the U.S. have been committed by home-grown terrorists. What the Trump administration is not revealing is that many in the migrant caravan have the intention of seeking asylum in the United States or Mexico. Although the term “seeking asylum” has been dragged and deeply misinterpreted, its true purpose is one rooted in humanity and morality. Asylum is a right, protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that it “is a protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or at the border who meet the international law definition of a ‘refugee.’” This was a right extended to persecuted groups in the past and should be given to these refugees today.
The people joining the caravan, (predominantly coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua) are seeking asylum because they no longer feel safe in their own homes. They are being unjustly persecuted by their respective governments, are unable to feed their children and put shoes on their feet or have needs that their homes simply cannot provide them with. The few stories being told in articles and blogs have corroborated what should be accepted as a fundamental truth: mass migration comes from a place of desperation, and not malintent.
Ingrid Hernandez Mejia–a woman from Honduras–told The Gazette that her family fled from dangerous gangs who had threatened the lives of her and her children. After the police, who were supposed to protect her, had rejected her pleas for help, she joined the waves of migrants in a desperate attempt to save her family.
58-year old, Olivin Castellanos, who hopes to be a truck driver in the United States told USA Today: “We are going to get to the border of the U.S. I am not going to stop. I don’t care if I die.”
Cristian, from San Pedro Sula, said to a reporter, “I want to get to the States to contribute to that country; to do any kind of work, even picking up garbage.”
Franklyn Cano, a Honduran migrant beautifully summarized the plight of the migrants: “Everybody wants freedom. Everybody wants safety.”
Other than interviews with migrants, a crucial way in which United States citizens have been made aware of the crises is through the poignant pictures currently being taken at the borders.
On November 25th, tear gas was employed to separate a peaceful protest of migrants tired of waiting for the asylum process to commence. While Donald Trump and the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, has claimed that the tear gas was meant to stop unruly and dangerous migrants from illegally crossing the border, this photo proves otherwise:
Photos like these make this crisis occurring in our own country more palpable and make it increasingly difficult for the Trump administration to cloak the brutality they have inflicted on innocent people begging to exercise a human right.
Fortunately for students of Packer, our teachers and peers will not let the stories of these migrants be forgotten or undermined. In Dr. Strauss’s 10th grade History class just last week, half of the long band was allocated to discussing the occurrences at the border and looking impartially at left and right wing reports. Instead of just telling us the facts, or playing a video, Strauss encouraged the students to ask questions that go deeper than what a photo looks like or what a journalist is writing. One student in response to the Kim Kyung Hoon picture (see above) asked, “I wonder what it smelled like” while another said, “I wonder what that mother is thinking.” It is thanks to work and teachers like this that Packer students are being groomed to look at an issue with compassion, subjectivity, and the capacity to look past the presented information.
Telling and being interested in the stories of the migrant caravan will not solve the deep-seeded issues occurring at our border. However, learning these stories and familiarizing ourselves with the obstacles migrants and asylum seekers in the caravan are facing is one step in the right direction towards a world of greater understanding and commonality between races and nationalities.