What’s the Deal with the Mexican Caravan?

It’s hard to sift through the rhetoric on both sides regarding the Mexican caravan. With good reason, there’s a lot of exaggerations and mistruths on both sides of the immigration issue. I have to admit, the politicization has kept me from commenting on the the caravan till now.

Now that the election hubbub is over, however, I’d like you to read a direct account from my immigration colleague and law school classmate, who recently spent time with caravan members in Mexico. She’s has provided a fairly clinical account of she did and saw.

For big picture consideration, at the end is a link to a recent Time magazine article, tracing back some of the current problem to the Obama administration.

At the end of this post are incredible photos that Charlene took of the caravan. Whatever one’s opinion about what should happen when these folks arrive at the US border, I myself feel an emotional pull to the humanity that can, on an impromptu level, organize such a movement, literally and figuratively.

***From Charlene D’Cruz***

“My voice is hoarse and my emotions a little raw as I ponder what HUMANITY looks and feels like after spending a couple days on the road with the Refugee Exodus (aka Migrant Caravan).

This Caravan consists mostly of Hondurans. It is amazingly well organized given the numbers and the fact that there are so many babies, toddlers and young children. The “leaders” carry megaphones with them and some go ahead and the rest bring up the rear, refusing to leave anyone behind. They walk about 30 kms a day and the rest of the way they try to get rides on trucks, in vans and buses. Each adult carries at least one bedroll, a blanket, and a backpack. Some adults are carrying babies because they don’t have strollers. Other are pushing strollers. Moms are carrying the tender babies while they nurse and walk. Children about 2 and up have to walk. Some are walking in crocs because they don’t have shoes.

The Caravan trickles into Querétaro at about 2 p.m. Querétaro to México is 220 kms or 137 miles. The government of Querétaro has provided the Caravan a stadium for the night.Unfortunately, they don’t allow the refugees into the stadium and they have to sleep outside the stadium.

At the stadium are the medical teams, firefighters, various government officials, the police (local, regional, state), lots of press and 4 American lawyers. We had gotten there and parked the yellow microbus we used as our “hq” so that we could give “charlas” or presentations. We were four attorneys trying to inform about 4000 people about their rights, the asylum process, trump’s recent “proclamation”, the border situation with the military and the militia, definite detention, and family separation. By about 5 p.m. everyone has arrived and last leaders come into the stadium area.

As the refugees arrive, they Immediately seek out a spot to put down their bedrolls for their families. There is not enough space. So the rest spread out on the grass outside the stadium, or on the sidewalks on the street outside the stadium. They eat, get medical treatment, bathe, listen to music, take naps, and some even play a game of cards. The youth have a little bit of energy to kick around a soccer ball, but most are exhausted. There are cars with their trunks open from local people who bring blankets, toilet paper, clothes and other necessities. And there is press, lots of press.

Then the leaders meet and discuss where they will go next. They have had talks with government and police folks in the states where they are headed. Once they have an idea, they have a meeting and inform everyone where they are headed. By now everyone knows that they have to be up and on the road no later than 5 a.m., everyone! It’s almost 10 p.m. and almost everyone is asleep. The temperature drops that night and it’s the coldest night for them. There is a dearth of blankets.

At 3 a.m. everyone is up and about. We pile out of the microbus and start cleaning up our area and packing up. Suddenly we see 3 or 4 large buses coming up the road. Everyone is excited. Everyone thinks that the government of Querétaro has provided the buses as the refugees had asked. There were smiles on everyone’s faces which slowly faded when we saw the buses were full and were just passing through. This disappointment wouldn’t be the first time for the refugees and they continued about their morning activities.

It’s pitch dark and they line up to leave the stadium. It’s solemn and quiet with the occasional crying of toddlers and young children who have been woken up too early and put on their feet to walk. They shuffle past our microbus, all 4000 of them. We hand out out bread and water. We decide we will take a small family with two babies and two little children in the van. We also pile bedding and blankets for folks ontop of the microbus. We drive to Irapuato.

Querétaro to Irapuato is about 106kms (66 miles). The government of Guanajuato has provided an area by one of the government buildings for the Caravan to spend the night. There is an large open space with a roof but it isn’t enough, so half the people sleep outside. There are many government vehicles, firefighters, medical vans etc. They are prepared for the Caravan and immediately start feeding them. We set up our microbus and immediately start giving our “charlas” and talking to the people about asylum law. There is a meeting and the next stop is Guadalajara.

The Caravan keeps making it’s way up north towards Tijuana. They have decided that they will head up the west coast because it is very dangerous to head up the center or the east coast. Dangerous both on the Mexican side and the US side (Texas). They are resolute in their goal to make it to the US. Some have chosen to stay in México. But most say that they are not safe in México. Many want to make it to Canada because they say that there are jobs the Canadians want to give them and all they want is to pass through the US and go up north. Some have family in the US. But the common hope is all they want is safety for their children, to work, to give their children an education and chance for a future. The last I checked, all of us want the same things!!!”



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