Two hundred people from a migrant caravan that started in Honduras entered the United States Wednesday.
Many of them came from south of the border, but others said they were hauling their belongings onto lorries and trucks for the trip north. They said they were searching for work and escaping a perceived failure of their governments to help alleviate their poverty and displacement.
The caravan’s arrival comes as the Trump administration has intensified its rhetoric about illegal immigration.
At a rally in El Paso, Texas, last week, President Donald Trump claimed that “a massive caravan of criminals and gang members is marching north” from Central America. The migrants may be approaching illegally but many say they come to seek asylum, not to stay permanently in the U.S.
The Trump administration has stepped up its rhetoric about immigrant crime. Last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the “vast majority” of the criminals in his state “come in through ports of entry.”
This week, Trump pledged to deter migrants from the north. “If they come here illegally, we’re taking them out,” Trump said.
“We understand,” Carla Mozingo, an immigration lawyer in Philadelphia, told WCAU. “There’s a point of law to go to. They can work visas if they come from countries that are safe.”
But she added that she hadn’t seen a large influx of Central American migrants in the last year.
A Mexican migrant here in Washington has also noticed a decline in migrants traveling in mass caravans.
“One time, I had 20 people in one car, and that wasn’t terrible,” she said. “But there’s been less and less in the past few years. Now, it seems like they’re going a little bit alone. I don’t think they want to take the risk of caravans.”
The U.S. Border Patrol has seized more than 10,000 pounds of illegal drugs on the Texas border during the last fiscal year alone, a 30 percent increase over 2016. Some 87 percent of the seizures were of drugs from Mexico, according to data the Department of Homeland Security released in July.
In this fiscal year to date, the Border Patrol has arrested 12,984 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and 63,793 from Mexico, according to the Homeland Security report.
Immigration advocates want to see the administration target the networks of coyotes who earn money by directing migrants across the border in caravans.
“To fight the surge of Central American migrants from Central America, you’ve got to address the demand for them,” Leon Fresco, who heads Organizing for Immigrant Rights in North Carolina, told The Wall Street Journal in October.
At this week’s Trump rally, local migrants greeted the president with shouts of “Yes!” and “Trump!”
“We’re going to start working as a people to say, ‘Our borders belong to all of us,’” Trump told the crowd. “We have to take care of the border.”
Another immigrant around the country will also experience the caravan’s coming waves of migrants.
Lupita Romina Perez, a church worker in Georgia, has heard the caravan is coming next month. “All we hear are people saying if they go to the north they’ll get over and then go back,” she said. “Well, we know a lot of people come back. We’ve seen the confusion in people’s eyes.”
“Hopefully we won’t end up with that for our people in Georgia,” she said.
She said she plans to visit the migrants as they make their journey to get ready for what may lie ahead.