Trump blasts caravan that poses no danger to the U.S.
A Central American migrant sits amid a group of sleeping migrants, in Tapachula, Mexico, Monday, Oct. 22. Thousands of Honduran migrants hoping to reach the U.S. stretched out on rain-soaked sidewalks, benches, and public plazas in the southern Mexico city of Tapachula, worn down by another day's march under a blazing sun. | Moises Castillo / AP

Trump has been engaging for the past week in a wild tantrum supposedly in reaction to a caravan of migrants and refugees, mostly from Honduras, who have been marching through Guatemala and Mexico.  The hope for many is to reach the U.S. – Mexico border and, once there, ask for asylum in the United States. There are reports, however, that large numbers are deciding to stay in Mexico instead and that many, due to the onerous journey, are actually returning home to the dangers they originally fled.

The caravans are nothing new and have been going on for several years now. What’s new is Trump’s decision to use this one as a talking point to stir up fear and hatred and gin up votes for Republicans, many of whom are losing their grip on power.  Migrants and refugees travel in these large groups to protect themselves from attacks by criminal gangs, including narcotics cartels and the feared 18th Street and MS -13 gangs, and because many poor people cannot afford the thousands of dollars people smugglers charge to take individuals and families to the U.S. border.

Although there is nothing new here to get worked up about, Trump has chosen to treat this as a “national emergency” and has threatened to send the regular U.S. armed forces to the border to protect U.S. “national sovereignty” from what he calls an “invasion.” The fact that such use of U.S. troops by the president is unconstitutional makes little difference, of course, to this president.

His lack of concern for whether his claims bear any resemblance to the truth explains also his statements that Muslim terrorists and criminals are mixed into the caravan and that the whole operation is funded by Democrats.

He forgets conveniently, of course, that if the GOP hadn’t pulled out of bipartisan immigration reform legislation they had agreed upon with Democrats, many of the issues, including, border security would not even be issues today. He also ignores, again conveniently, that immigration across the southern U.S. border is now a net zero, with many actually crossing the border to leave the U.S permanently.

Trump’s tirade about the cavalcade comes, of course, at a time when many in his own GOP are running away from their long-held expressed intentions to kill Obamacare. Democrats are, in the closing days of the midterm election campaigns, warning that failure to wrest control of the House from the GOP could be the death knell for healthcare for many millions. GOP congressional candidates are claiming they will protect people with pre-existing conditions when, in fact, every single one of them voted to kill the Affordable Care Act as many as 70 or more times. The ACA is the only mechanism in place that protects people with pre-existing conditions. The GOP hopes that fear of immigrants and “the other” will trump the fear Americans have of being left without healthcare for themselves and their loved ones.

Pursuing that fear campaign, Trump has denounced Mexico and the three impoverished and violence-wracked countries of Central America’s “Northern Triangle” (Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador).  He has accused Mexico of not being able to stop the caravan when it crossed the border from Guatemala.  He has also accused the Northern Triangle countries of not stopping their citizens from leaving their respective countries

The truth is that, for years, the opposition in Mexico has been accusing the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who leaves office on December 1, of being overly subservient to the United States and specifically of doing the U.S. government’s dirty work of repressing Central American migrants.  And the Central American governments have no legal rights to “stop their citizens from leaving,” any more than the U.S. government can stop its own citizens from leaving (unless they forget to pay their taxes or something, and even so there is such a thing as due process).

Left unsaid by Trump, of course, is the fact that many of the horrific conditions from which Central Americans are fleeing result from U.S. policies, including regime change and other forms of interference, including  support for multi-national corporations exploiting Central American workers, that were stepped up by and can be easily traced back to the Republican administration of Ronald Reagan.

Regardless, Trump has threatened to tear up the recently signed trade treaty (the USMCA) with Mexico (the one that replaces NAFTA) and he has threatened to seal the U.S.-Mexico border completely with the use of troops, and to cut off all or most financial aid to the impoverished Central American countries.

These actions, if actually carried out, would hurt the United States as much as or more than they would hurt Mexico or Central America:  Cancelling the USMCA and sealing  the border would greatly harm U.S. business interests, and cutting off much of the financial aid to Central America would destabilize those countries even more and be an impetus for even more migration. Again, for a president interested in election year demagogy, none of this makes much difference.

But the Trump lies nevertheless do permanent damage.

As the caravan has moved through Guatemala and the Mexican state of Chiapas, it has received considerable sympathy and material support from local residents of those two countries.   In one Guatemalan town, shopkeepers and local residents gave a little money to the caravanistas.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida  got hold of a video clip of this incident and published it in social media with a claim that the migrants were being paid by some sinister force, probably George Soros and/or the Democratic Party, to invade the United States. In fact, an investigation by the Snopes fact-checking website shows this to be a lie;  among other things the money being given to the crowd of women and children was extremely little and would not be enough to motivate anybody to uproot themselves and undertake an arduous journey to the north, in blazing heat, to “storm” the United States.  The people receiving the help were already part of the caravan; in all areas where this and other groups of migrants pass through, it is common for ordinary people to help out the travelers with gifts of food, bottles of water and sometimes rides in their vehicles.

Some others on the U.S. right went beyond this deception by Gaetz, and circulated photos of bloodied, beaten Mexican policemen, claiming that they had been attacked by members of the caravan.  However,  Snopes soon discredited this piece of misinformation also, with proof that the images were years old and had nothing to do with the caravan, but rather with other, unrelated clashes between police and Mexican demonstrators.

Residents hand out water bottles and sandwiches to Central American migrants making their way to the U.S. in a large caravan, at the main plaza in Tapachula, Mexico, Monday, Oct. 22. | Moises Castillo / AP

As long as Trump is president, Snopes is going to be a very busy online service, it seems.  That old standby, foreigners burning the U.S. flag, has also been trotted out to discredit the caravan; that too was shot down by Snopes.

But what is the purpose of all this nonsense, all these lies?  As already noted and lest we forget, there are make or break midterm elections in our country on November 6.  There is a high probability that Trump’s Republican Party will lose its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  So Trump, the Republican Party and their allies in the ultra-right media such as Fox News and Breitbart are pulling out all stops to frighten and divide the voters, to discourage minority group members from voting, and to discredit the election results in advance.  That most of the Democratic Party has opposed Trump’s extremist and xenophobic anti-immigrant rhetoric and repressive measures is combined with false information about the caravan, for self-evidently demagogic electioneering purposes.  This is the main argument for voting Republican in some parts of the country.

But Trump has an anti-immigrant agenda that goes beyond the electoral considerations of November 6. His hatred for non-European immigrants from poor countries is palpable and has been demonstrated many times:  Back in January, he referred to such lands as “shithole countries” and said we should not be allowing in their immigrants.  He cancelled President Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program which was designed to help young people whose parents brought them to the United States as minor children, and he has more recently announced the cancellation of the Temporary Protected Status of hundreds of thousands of people from Central America, Haiti and elsewhere. Affected by the TPS cancellation are 57,000 Hondurans, many of whom have spouses and children who are U.S. citizens born in the United States.

The Trump administration has also announced it will be going after legal non-citizens who have used government benefits, perhaps even the subsidies under Obamacare, or benefits their U.S. citizen children are entitled to under law.  And as if that were not enough, there are hints of a plan to review the status of some naturalized citizens, with the possibility that their U.S. citizenship could be revoked if discrepancies are found in their original application paperwork.

And while arrests and deportations are rising, the brutal saga of the “children in cages” on the border goes on and on.

A great many people in the United States have immigrant friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors. Millions have U.S. citizenship by naturalization. The latest outpouring of hate and lies from Trump, the Republicans and their allies should give us all an extra motivation to get out the vote on November 6.


CONTRIBUTOR

Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Emile Schepers was born in South Africa and has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He has worked as a researcher and activist in urban, working-class communities in Chicago since 1966. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He now writes from Northern Virginia.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is editor in chief at Peoplesworld.org. He started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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