The Central American caravan has conclusively proven three things. First, the migrants are economic migrants, and therefore don’t qualify for asylum. Second, despite offers from the Mexican government to grant them safe haven, their goal is to reach the United States where they expect that affirmative benefits will be more generous. Third, the consensus among most Mexicans in an area where part of the caravan has arrived matches the often-skeptical sentiment in the U.S. toward offering services to foreign nationals when so many locals are hurting.
Mexico is a sovereign nation, and its citizens, especially its working and unemployed, are mostly united in feeling that their country cannot accommodate more people without harming, to various degrees, its own.
As of mid-November, about 1,000 people who broke away from the original caravan have reached Tijuana where Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum called the influx a “tsunami.” Thousands more could soon follow as the majority of the larger caravan arrives, and all plan to request asylum.
President-elect Andre Copyright s Manuel Lopez Obrador’s incoming government vowed to provide jobs and visas to the Central Americans. Mexico has generously offered asylum in the form of temporary identification documents, work permits and education for children. In other words, migrants fleeing Central American countries and claiming fear of persecution need not travel further than Mexico to find safe haven. Mexico’s proposal not only protects those seeking safety, it also helps the U.S. reduce its significant asylum fraud level. Immigration judges who hear actual cases overwhelmingly deny asylum claims. From 2011 to 2016, the denial rates were: Mexico, 89 percent; El Salvador, 82.9 percent; Honduras, 80.3 percent and Guatemala, 77.2 percent.
But similar to the U.S., Mexico’s natives question asylum offers to foreign nationals. As one woman told Reuters, “We also need help,” inferring that the more the Mexican government focuses on helping Central Americans, the less will remain for her and her family.
Should the migrants successfully enter the U.S. and receive employment authorization, they’ll compete with Americans and already present lawful residents for jobs. An expanded labor pool is particularly hurtful to the U.S.’s vulnerable, underemployed minorities. Many of the unsuspecting migrants with less than a high school education will be subject to devastating labor and wage exploitation. Illegal immigrants make up an estimated 5 percent of the U.S. labor force, and are therefore subject to criminal labor abuse. Moreover, immigration is projected to drive growth in the U.S. labor pool through at least 2035.
A final underreported fact regarding the caravan: the sending countries – Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – are relatively high-fertility nations. Their presence, their as yet unborn children, their existing children and the family members that they will eventually petition when they become citizens will have an adverse effect on efforts to stabilize U.S. population. The Pew Research Center estimates that the U.S. is projected to grow to 441 million in 2065 from today’s 329 million, and that 88 percent of the future increase is linked to future immigrants and their descendants.
Efforts to deter the caravan should be interpreted as measures intended to help struggling Americans, and in the best interests of future generations but not reflective of an anti-immigrant sentiment, a charge leveled too often without basis.
Joe Guzzardi is a Progressives for Immigration Reform analyst who has written about immigration for more than 30 years. Contact him at [email protected].org.