America is a country seemingly obsessed with the idea of being the best. Whether it is in the realm of trade, education, social services or security, our country is always comparing itself to other leading countries. Our current president branded this national desire, built an entire campaign and eventually an entire administration around it with the “Make America Great Again” slogan. Despite our predilection with areas like the economy and education, our president and our country seem remarkably unconcerned with falling behind with our humanity, and I say this with specific regard to the large migrant caravan that has been making its way towards the American border since Oct. 12.
The caravan began in Honduras, a country bordering Guatemala with extremely high gang violence rates and a president shrouded in accusations of election tampering and corruption. The size of the caravan has been the subject of some dispute, especially as it has passed through Guatemalan and Mexican checkpoints. The United Nations estimated the number to be as high as 7,000 migrants, but as some have returned home or decided to stay in Mexico the caravan has dropped to approximately 3,500 people as of Oct. 30. The majority of the group is composed of young men, with a mix of some families with children; many are seeking asylum from violence in Honduras, while others seek to escape the poverty and unemployment of their countries to obtain a better life for themselves and their families.
Despite a complete absence of ill-will toward the object of their pilgrimage or political motivation behind it, President Trump and a number of conservative leaders have had little issue with suggesting otherwise to the American people. The president has issued a number of false and/or deeply hyperbolic statements pertaining to the caravan, such as: “A fairly big percentage of those people are criminals,” and, “You’re gonna find a middle-eastern, you’re gonna find everything.”
These statements exhibit the president’s strong knack for conflating facts and his own perception of reality, as well as his talent for preying on the fear of voters and using it for partisan gain. In a recent rally, Trump flippantly drew democrats as desirous of caravans as a way to gain voters, despite a complete lack of awareness of political parties in the minds of nearly all of the travelers.
While Mexico provides food and humanitarian aid to migrants traveling 20 or more miles a day, our president only seeks to use their existence as a means to aggravate fear in American voters to prepare for the fast-approaching midterms. Former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich has said that the goal of the increased coverage of the migrants, and especially the focus on relating them to gang violence and drugs, will drive certain voters away from Democratic candidates.
This is not the only instance in which the administration has manipulated the story on immigration to suit its agenda. Crowding in immigration detention centers has long been attributed to a rise in illegal immigration, but it is, in fact, the result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new “zero-tolerance” approach with respect to migrants seeking asylum. Nonetheless, conservative leaders have spun the narrative to justify further restrictions on migrants, generating a cyclical effect powered by misinformation.
It seems more often than not with the Trump administration that the ends justify the means, even if those means involve misleading the American people and preying on their fears. The members of the caravan are projected to reach the American border after election day, but for all intents and purposes, Nov. 6 will be the moment of truth for them and the migrants that follow. This is the American peoples’ referendum on illegal immigrants and their place in a greater America. The choice is simple: accept fear and let go of humanity, or work through the fog of misinformation and manipulation to a place of amity and compassion.