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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Explained Snippets: Migrant caravan

Thousands are marching towards Mexico and the US. Who organised them, what does it mean to Donald Trump?

By: Express News Service | Updated: October 23, 2018 6:02:13 am
Central American migrants walk in a caravan near the Mexico-Guatemala border in Tapachula (Mexico) Sunday. (Photo: Reuters)

SINCE LAST week, a trail of migrants, travelling by vehicle and on foot, has been moving northwards from Honduras and Guatemala, towards Mexico and the United States. The “migrant caravan” had led to warnings from US President Donald Trump, culminating in a series of tweets Monday where he said he had alerted border authorities about a “national emergency”, and that the US would begin curtailing aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

How they got together

Migration of Central Americans to Mexico and the US has taken place for decades, for reasons ranging from economic hardship to violent conditions at home. A migrant caravan of such a scale and organised nature, however, is relatively new. Earlier this year, another caravan from Honduras had reached the Mexico-US border in April after travelling 3,500 km; that march was organised by a rights group called Pueblo Sin Fronteras (people without borders). The current one was formed late last week in San Pedro Sula in Honduras, known for high levels of violence. It originally numbered fewer than 200 people, grew to 1,000 by the time it had crossed into Guatemala, and is estimated to have reached 4,000 this week, The New York Times reported. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for organising this week’s caravan.

Trump & immigration

The fight against illegal immigration was a central plank in Trump’s presidential election, and helped build his conservative base. His renewed attack comes with midterm elections weeks away. In his tweets, he has warned of criminals crossing over, economic dislocation and job loss. On Monday, one of his tweets was: “Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.”

Trump has attacked Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The caravan had already crossed into Guatemala before the Honduras could act. The NYT report said Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales had dismissed Trump’s threats, and rejected constraints placed on foreign aid. The Mexican government deployed about 700 National Police officers to the border and issued warnings to the caravan’s participants, the report said.

What next

According to another NYT report, the Trump administration is weighing an array of new policies that it hopes will deter Central Americans from such trips. These range from a new form of the practice of family separation to stricter requirements on asylum, the report said.

PTI quoted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as saying : “Many migrants are attempting to transit these countries and in the process are violating their sovereignty, their laws, and their procedures. …Consistent with US law, the United States will not allow illegal immigrants to enter or remain in the US.”

Tip for Reading List: Missiles, war, And Progress

Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P Rose Director of the world-renowned Hayden Planetarium in New York City, is among the best known astrophysicists in the world, his immense popularity riding on a vast body of science communication that includes books, film and TV appearances, innumerable public speaking assignments, and a 13 million-strong Twitter following that makes him the most widely followed scientist on social media by far. Dr Tyson’s 15th book, Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military (co-authored with his longtime editor Avis Lang), is the intertwined story — and history — of war and space science.

“The astrophysicist does not make missiles or bombs,” the authors say in the book’s prologue. “Instead, we and the military happen to care about many of the same things: multi-spectral detection, ranging, tracking, imaging, high ground, nuclear fusion, access to space. The overlap is strong, and the knowledge flows in both directions. Astrophysicists as a community, like most academics, are overwhelmingly liberal and antiwar, yet we are curiously complicit in this alliance.” Their book, they say, “explores this relationship from the earliest times of celestial navigation in the service of conquest and hegemony to the latest exploitations of satellite-enabled warfare.”

The book’s immediate relevance is in the context of President Donald Trump’s plans for a new “Space Force” — the US Department of Defence will likely submit in the next few weeks a legislative proposal recommending this as a separate wing of the country’s armed forces. At another level, the book explores deeper and more universal questions of philosophy and ideology, and their relationship with science and technological advancement.

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