On Easter Sunday, President Trump sounded the alarm, claiming that dramatic measures are needed in Congress on an emergency basis to prevent a large caravan of Central Americans from crashing the U.S. border with Mexico.
His hyped-up tweets on the Christian holy day were apparently sparked by misleading reports broadcast by Fox News, with the president claiming that Mexican officials were enabling a mass exodus to the U.S.
In reality, the march north through Mexico by Central American migrants, mostly from Honduras, represents a religious “Stations of the Cross” event by Hispanic Catholics that has occurred for the past five years.
Rather than demonstrating weak immigration policies by the Mexican government, as Trump dramatically insisted, these processions of demonstrators, some dressed in biblical garb and carrying crosses, represent an Easter-season protest against the kidnappings, extortion, beatings and killings suffered by many Central American migrants as they cross Mexico’s southern border.
A fact-check by the Associated Press found that the 1,100 migrants are not traveling en masse to sneak across the U.S. border.
March ends 650 miles south of U.S. border
The current march is scheduled to end this month with a conference on migration issues in the central Mexican state of Puebla, east of Mexico City. That’s some 650 miles from the U.S. border. After the caravans end, some migrants in the past have tried to reach the U.S. border, but often they just turn themselves in and request asylum in Mexico.
This morning, Trump continued his assault: “Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘caravans’ of people enter their country,” he tweeted. “They must stop them at their northern border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws.”
The AP reports that Mexico routinely stops and deports undocumented Central Americans, sometimes in numbers that rival those of the United States. Deportations of foreigners dropped from 176,726 in 2015 to 76,433 in 2017, in part because fewer were believed to have taken a Mexican route to the north, and more were futilely requesting asylum in the U.S. amidst deadly violence in Central American countries.
On Easter morning, the Fox headline was “Caravans of illegal immigrants headed to U.S.” The president is known to watch Fox’s morning shows and post incendiary tweets based on the cable TV station’s broadcasts.
In addition, Brandon Judd, leader of the union representing U.S. border patrol agents, continues to back the president’s dire warnings about violent immigrants coming to America and the need for a border wall. He predicted on “Fox & Friends” that those in the caravan would create havoc and chaos in the U.S. as they wait for immigration reform in Congress.
Trump’s Nuclear option is not what you might think
One of Trump’s angry Easter Sunday tweets said that the Senate should “use the ‘nuclear option,’ if necessary” to impose emergency measures. Thankfully, the president was not calling for dropping nuclear bombs on these migrants. And it was not another reckless boast that he has a “bigger” nuclear button than anybody else in the world.
Instead, it was a plea to drastically change the rules in the Senate that would wipe out the traditional filibuster, which requires a 60-vote majority on contentious issues. Making a hyper-partisan argument for the Republican-controlled Senate to take drastic measures, Trump tweeted that “Democrats want no borders, hence drugs and crime!”
Yet, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), with the backing of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), has dismissed that option in the past, saying Republicans will welcome the filibuster if they return to being the Senate minority. It should be noted that Trump’s preferred DACA fix mustered only 39 votes last year in the GOP-controlled Senate, meaning it couldn’t have passed even if the Senate had approved an end to the filibuster rule.
Beyond misunderstanding the ongoing processions in Mexico, Trump also demonstrated in his most recent tweets that he has a basic lack of knowledge about the DACA program, which has reigned as one of the most controversial issues of the Trump presidency.
Trump ended the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program last year and has wrangled with congressional Democrats ever since to revive the anti-deportation protections for these 800,000 “Dreamers” in exchange for construction of a comprehensive border wall with Mexico.
Earlier today, Trump declared that DACA is “dead,” after asserting in a tweet on Easter, referring to the processions, that: “These big flows of people are all trying to take advantage of DACA. They want in on the act!”
In fact, the DACA policy protected those with work permits, college enrollment or military service who came to America prior to June 2007. It does not apply to new immigrants and no attempts to expand the chronological limitations have gained traction in Congress.
Essentially, in direct contrast to what Trump and Judd have said over the past 24 hours, no one in the caravans can legally gain access to the U.S. and virtually no one will try.