The irony of Credible Fear has never been this acute or real. Credible fear alludes to an interview which immigrants to the US have to appear for, before they are granted conditional entry or deported (most reports indicate that a majority pass the interview and are allowed entry). But the massive migrant caravan headed for the US border seems to have inverted that equation. It now seems to be an unwitting, unwieldy and uncomfortable metaphor for the same test to POTUS instead.
Thousands of prospective Central American migrants — UN officials put the number at 7,200 — are steadily marching through southern Mexico towards the US borders. The caravan is supposed to have originated in Honduras, and people from El Salvador and Guatemala have joined in, as they flee relentless violence and persecution in their home countries. President Trump has already sent troops to the borders to stop the surge of people though the specifics of the operation aren’t clear yet — the US is legally obliged to consider the cases of asylum seekers. However, if one scrutinises the general topography of Trump’s migrant fear-psychosis, beyond the ringing rhetoric of job-sucking, resource draining aliens who might also be terrorists, there are clear and widening faultlines even within the Republicans. In 2016, the US Chamber of Commerce, released a report where it acknowledged how immigrants “significantly benefit the US economy”. Earlier this year, they had called for an end to the policy of family-separation at the US Mexico border. Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political advocacy group in the US that pours millions into Republican campaigns was critical of Trump’s immigration policies in the past too.
The fact that such cash-rich and influential conservatives have increasingly become wary of Trump assumes significance ahead of the November mid-term elections. There is a view that the caravan might mobilise hardline conservative voters in favour of Republicans who would “protect” the borders. But if a fair section within the same faction feel strongly about relaxing them instead — there are reports, some as recent as 2016, which establish consistent economic contribution of immigrant families to the US government — how effective can an anti-immigrant stance be? The Democrats, according to a recent statement, are “focused like a laser on health care and will not be diverted”. They certainly don’t need to be if the migrant caravan, by just being there, self-engineers itself as an electoral leverage, driving a deep wedge in the Republican voter base. Less campaign work for them at zero cost.