A Caravan of Lies

BEN TAUBER: It is the day before the midterm elections, and Republicans have found an issue to hammer home to their constituents: an ‘invasion’ of several thousand Central American migrants containing, according to the president, “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” who are on their way to the US-Mexico border, bent on wreaking havoc and committing crime in the United States. On October 31, President Trump tweeted a campaign ad that CNN called “the most racially charged national political ad in 30 years.” It draws parallels between members of the caravan and Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican man convicted in the killing of two California police officers. Yet, the rhetoric pushed by the Trump administration and its Republican allies is inflamed and misleading at best, and downright false at worse.

Firstly, this caravan is nothing close to what could be considered an ‘invasion.’ This is an organized assembly of migrants fleeing gang violence, crime, strife, and poverty in their home countries in search for asylum in the United States. Asylum, of course, is a completely legal process. Therefore, claims that call the members of the caravan ‘illegal immigrants’ are patently false. Moreover, while it is true that this caravan has more members than past iterations (roughly 7,000 according to recent estimates), US military planners estimate only about 20% of the migrants will actually make it to the border, and the Department of Homeland Security states that only about 20% of those who claim asylum actually have it granted -- a process that can take years.

Secondly, there is no evidence that any Middle Easterners constitute the migrant caravan. The military report claims that “limited numbers of Bangladeshi, Haitian and African individuals” are in the caravan, yet no Middle Eastern countries are mentioned. If we are to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt, it is possible he is referencing the capture and deportation in Guatemala of 100 individuals linked to terrorist groups, yet this took place before the caravan formed. With no evidence to support his claim, the President’s allegation is nothing more than an Islamophobic dog whistle. As far as the claim that criminals constitute some part of the caravan, the Department of Homeland Security has allegedly identified 270 caravan members with “criminal histories.” In a caravan of 7,000, it was very likely that at least some individuals would have criminal pasts. However, these individuals pose no direct threat to the US, as the caravan members are once again going through a legal asylum process which includes background checks.

The rapid inflammation of anti-migrant rhetoric among Republicans is nothing more than desperate fearmongering in the wake of their failure to repeal Obamacare and the unpopularity of the tax bill. The Republican attempt to paint a group of organized, largely peaceful migrants fleeing abject conditions as hardened criminals coming for Americans is a sad one, appealing to our worst tendencies and fears in order to secure an electoral victory. It shows that their policy positions cannot stand on their own. When the caravan actually reaches the border weeks after the midterm elections, its members will be halted and processed like every preceding migrant group, and this recent wave of xenophobic Republican rhetoric will fall hollow, empty, and abandoned.

Max Magid