Try 1 month for 99¢
Migrants straggle into Mexico City to shelter at stadium (copy)

Central American migrants begin their morning trek Monday as part of a thousands-strong caravan hoping to reach the U.S. border, as they face the Pico de Orizaba volcano upon departure from Cordoba, Veracruz state, Mexico.

The images can’t be escaped. In the days of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, we are inundated with coverage of several thousand Central Americans inching northward with a goal of reaching the United States.

These images evoke a wide range of emotions from Americans, from compassion and sympathy, to concern and trepidation.

Immigrant “caravans” mostly are comprised of people from Central America’s “northern triangle” of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. It is well-documented these countries are among the most violent in the world, with corruption, abject poverty, gang extortion and more challenges. It’s not difficult to see why some seek to escape their home countries, but how are they coming together in such an organized way?

The answer lies with an organization called Pueblo Sin Fronteras or People Without Borders. According to an April 3 Snopes story from a migratory effort, “Pueblo Sin Fronteras has staged dozens of caravans since their founding in 2010.” An April 2 Newsweek story called it “part humanitarian effort, part publicity stunt. (Pueblo Sin Fronteras) provides physical and monetary assistance to migrants and refugees seeking asylum.”

Their website, pueblosinfronteras.com, features caravan progress maps. The group states, “We accompany migrants and refugees in their journey of hope, and together demand our human rights.” There are videos of the group passing out money to caravan participants. Part of the reason there is such extensive media coverage is from the publicity sought by Pueblo Sin Fronteras. Any narrative pushing these caravans as a rag-tag grassroots uprising is simply false.

If it is a question regarding human rights, who is responsible for ensuring those rights for a citizen of Honduras, or Guatemala? What about the United States? What is their responsibility to improve conditions in their home countries?

American foreign policy in Central America always has been controversial. Some will remember the U.S. backing the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the mid-1980s, and the ouster of Manuel Noriega from Panama, among other interventions.

The U.S. has provided billions in aid to Central America for decades. President Donald Trump threatened to stop U.S. aid to northern triangle countries if the caravans aren’t stopped. In a Nov. 3 New York Times story, former Wisconsin congressman and administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development Mark Green stated, “I’m not aware of any firm decisions being made.” Has this extensive aid resulted in cooperation with our laws, or promoted prosperity within their borders?

Vice president Mike Pence met June 28 with the leaders of northern triangle countries. According to a Washington Post story that day, Pence said, “I told the presidents I met here that this exodus has to end. It is a threat to the security of the United States, and just as we respect your sovereignty and your borders, we demand you respect ours.” Those words have gone unheeded.

Many of the migrants say they’ll seek asylum in the United States. Asylum, broadly defined, is a request for protection from persecution.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states the following on its website (uscis.gov): “Every year people come to the United States seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to: race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Do these migrants truly fit the criteria for political asylum? The migrants largely are seeking economic opportunity and assistance, not escaping political persecution. They see the prosperity and liberty Americans enjoy. However, why do they carry the Honduran, or Guatemalan flag on their journey, while stating they are seeking freedom in America? It shows little respect for America.

The caravans begun in Honduras defied Guatemalan law when they crossed the border. They also essentially pushed their way past Mexican authorities at their border with Guatemala. These caravans have shown little regard for the laws of the nations they seek to cross.

What would cause anyone to believe they will abide by American law at our borders? Are there criminals and human traffickers in those masses? Even in the days of Ellis Island, and mass immigration to America, many immigrants deemed likely to become a “public charge,” that is, depend on government benefits, were denied the ability to enter our nation.

What are we if we are not a nation of laws? Who are we if we don’t enforce those laws? Is there not a process to come to the United States without crossing the border illegally, and seek refuge in “sanctuary cities” that won’t cooperate with U.S. immigration officials?

While we are sympathetic at their plight, there must be a better way to come to America than to be used as political pawns. Those who truly desire to make a home in America will follow her rules, and together we can make this nation stronger.

Scott Frostman lives in Baraboo and has roots throughout Wisconsin. He believes anyone can make a difference and can be reached at scfrostman@gmail.com.