As you may have heard, there is a caravan of several thousand migrant workers en route from Honduras to the United States. Judging from the hysteria, you might be forgiven for thinking that this caravan is a group of Mongol warriors headed by Genghis Khan or a horde of zombies rather than a collection of people looking for asylum and employment in America. Nevertheless, the panic quickly reached heights of fear not seen since the Great Jade Helm Scare of 2015.
Some Americans are so upset about the migrant march that they are ready to take drastic measures. On Twitter, President Trump called the caravan “a National Emergy” [sic]. Some, such as Michael Moates, have said that the response should be to “shoot on site” [sic]. On social media, many armchair pundits agreed that lethal force was warranted.
Stop it, America. Take a deep breath and relax.
If you’re concerned about the caravan, here are a few facts to make you feel better. At noon on October 21, a USA Today story placed the caravan in the city of Ciudad Hidalgo in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. This is a border city. That is, it is a city on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. That’s a whole country away from the US.
In fact, Ciudad Hidalgo is 1,250 miles from Laredo, Texas. Per Google Maps, the distance between the two cities is a 27-hour drive. But wait, as they say, there’s more!
The majority of the migrants are not driving or riding public transportation. They are on foot. The estimated walking time to the US border is 409 hours. That works out to just over 17 days. Of course, no one is going to walk 24 hours per day. Assuming that the migrants walk 12 hours each day, it would take more than a month, 34 days, to make the journey. Based on these calculations, we can expect the caravan to reach the US border sometime around Thanksgiving. The majority of the group probably won’t even make the full journey as people drop out and are detained along the way. There is ample time to prepare to receive the ones that do.
If all this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because the same thing happened six months ago and there was a similar hysteria. A smaller caravan was stopped in Mexico City last April. About 50 members of the spring caravan made it to the US border at Tijuana where Reuters reported that most were turned away by customs authorities, saying that the border station was too overwhelmed to process asylum-seekers. Eleven people were arrested for crossing the border illegally.
If the caravan does happen to reach the US border, there is still no reason to panic. Border Patrol agents are there to stop them and it isn’t as if thousands of people who are being featured on the news are going to sneak up on anyone. There is plenty of time to shift manpower and resources toward where the caravan is heading. The simplest solution is just to keep the group on the Mexican side of the border as Border Patrol and Customs agents did last spring.
This is not an invading army, as some right-wing sources, would have you believe. This is a group of refugees fleeing San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violent cities in the world. Drug violence, gang wars, and political repression make leaving Honduras to pursue the American dream attractive for many honest people.
There is no evidence that the group plans to rush the border en masse to start carrying out terrorist attacks or looting American cities. Their intention seems to be to come to the US to apply for political asylum. But, even if they did sneak across the border into the US, it would probably be to pick crops or do yard work. The evidence shows that Illegal immigrants have a lower crime rate than native-born Americans.
The irony is that the US is facing a shortage of labor. The US is currently considered to be at full employment and jobs are going unfilled because there aren’t enough workers. This applies to both skilled and unskilled labor. In a perfect world, the American need for labor would be matched with the immigrants’ need to work and a solution would be found to satisfy everyone.
This is the real world, however, and the migrants are just political pawns to be used by both sides. On the one hand, the organizers of the caravan are goading desperate people into marching thousands of miles, against the advice of their national leaders, when they know that they will be turned back at the US border. On the other hand, President Trump and right-wing organizations are using news of the caravan to stoke fears of an immigrant invasion and rally the base to vote in November.
The migrant caravan is real, but the threat that it represents is greatly overstated. There is little reason to fear and no reason to at all to start shooting innocent people, many of them women and children, who only want a better life in America.