Our views of the migrant caravan should not be reduced to a sound-byte

At the cusp of another heated political debate, we can let fact or fiction form our opinions.

Logan Zeppieri, Opinions Editor

Looming in the background of the midterm elections was the political blockbuster flick no one wanted to talk about. However, on November 25, the migrant caravan finally made its way to the United States border and was confronted with tear gas. A popular photo, circulated among mainstream media, depicting a woman running alongside two children—an aerosol substance being released in the background.

Despite the media surge, this story is receiving little factual attention. And, just as it was during the midterm elections, politicians and partisan voters are primarily interested in casting the migrant caravan as a political exemplar—as an invasion of the United States or nothing more than migrants seeking a new life. But whether you hate or love President Donald Trump and his policies, it is nothing more than negligence on our part to be ignorant of the facts or simple-minded in our conclusions.


The recent debate concerning the laws governing the United States’ southern border goes back to April, beginning with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions declaring a zero-tolerance policy. In the ensuing months, family separation and child detainment cast the context for this immigrant caravan.

In October, the immigrant caravan illegally pushed through Mexico’s southern border. In response, President Trump deployed 5,200 military personnel to the US-Mexico Border. The debate increased tension through the midterm election as President Trump claimed the caravan was a central voting issue. Soon after the election, the New York Times claimed President Trump had forgotten about the caravan.

Whether or not the New York Times was correct about President Trump, the debate was reignited on November 23. Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum declared a humanitarian crisis and that Tijuana’s 1.6 million residents were struggling to support the caravan influx. On November 25, many from the migrant caravan attempted to climb over the US-Mexico border wall, but were met with tear gas. On November 26, President Trump threatened to permanently close the border if Mexico did not begin deporting the migrants back to their respective countries.


In regards to the migrant caravan, we know three important facts.

First, about 80 percent of the migrants have declined asylum offered by Mexico and the United Nations.

Second, according to an MSNBC reporter, it appears that though there are women and children in the caravan, it is predominantly male. And, according to a CNN interview with Rodney Scott, chief patrol agent for the San Diego sector of Border Patrol, many of them either do not qualify for asylum or are not seeking asylum.

And third, it appears President Trump has garnered an unlikely source of support. Recently, Juan Manuel Gastelúm, Tijuana’s mayor, was photographed sporting a red “Make Tijuana Great Again” hat, while the “Tijuana First” protest against the migrants is growing.


The escalating tension at the US-Mexico border cannot be reduced to a single meme or a sound-byte. It is not simply the border patrol sending tear gas into a crowd of women and children. It is a crowd of migrants, who are mostly male and are illegally climbing over the border wall and throwing rocks at border patrol agents. It is not simply that the migrants seek asylum, for almost all of them have not requested accepted asylum. It is not simply that the United States is a nation of prejudices and whims by which we oppress foreigners. We are a nation of laws and order that must be respected.

But the debate is not simply the United States’ view against the view of the world. Many Mexicans share the same sentiments—requiring legal entry into the country and seeing protests from its citizens against the migrants lack of respect for their land and laws.


Looking forward, it is easy to cast the migrant caravan in an image worthy of a political sound-byte. It is difficult to imagine the complexities of the situation and respond to appropriately. But to respond appropriately, we must come to terms with the facts. If we are unwilling to do that, then we are cannot possibly demonstrate true charity in this situation. Without carefully considering the relevant issues of the migrant caravan, charity becomes a hollow mask for our political ambitions.

Despite the debate continuing for most of 2018, the conversation has not progressed far. From Time Magazine’s deceptive use of child detainment to the current photo of a mother running alongside her children, we know that photos speak a thousand words. The question pressing us is this: What is controlling those thousand words—fact or fiction?

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