The end of Easter week was marked by President Donald Trump threatening to cut off aid to Honduras and send U.S. troops to the Mexico border because of an immigrant caravan that had the United States as its end goal.
The Migrant Via Crucis — as it is commonly known — takes place every year during Easter week as a way of bringing attention to the issues immigrants face.
This year’s caravan began its journey in Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico on March 25.
Out of the 1,000 people travelling in the caravan, 80 per cent were Honduran.
People traveled for days — on foot, on top of trains or by asking for rides — as an attempt to obtain a better life than the one they left behind.
Agitated political climate in Honduras
One of the reasons many Hondurans have immigrated is the recent fraudulent presidential elections that took place in November 2017, which aggravated the socio-political crisis the country was already submerged in.
María José Leiva Alvarado, a first-year Honduran St. Thomas University student, recalls how worried she was during the election.
“I remember that I could barely sleep for those days because the whole situation was overwhelming,” she said.
Nevertheless, she believes it is not new that many Hondurans leave the country for political and economic reasons.
She said Honduras has been facing issues such as corruption, drug cartels and economic hardship for such a long time that now people are exhausted and are trying new ways to escape the country.
“We have been dragging so many issues for such a long time that people are just tired,” she said. “People in Honduras are drowning in problems, finding a job is considered a miracle back home … Many factors are pushing people away from our beautiful country.”
Honduras reacts to U.S threat to cut off aid
According to The Washington Post, caravans like this one are “common attempts to raise awareness, but they exist apart from the regular flow of migrants.”
This year, the caravan has been put on the spotlight because of Trump’s tweets.
He became aware of the caravan’s existence through Fox News, which described the caravan as “an example of unchecked migration.”
But, Irineo Mujica, director of Pueblo sin Fronteras, said the immigrants didn’t intend to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rather, their plan was to reach the border and ask for asylum.
Migration authorities in Mexico have said they will be handing out temporary permits to the caravan immigrants.
They will have 20 days to leave Mexico or 30 to present an asylum or legal migration application.
Trump threatened to cut off aid sent to Honduras — valued at $127.5 million in 2016 — and leverage the North American Free Trade Agreement against Mexico if the caravan didn’t come to an end.
As a response to Trump’s tweets, the Honduran government published a press release stating irregular migration to the United States has had a 30.8 per cent decrease from 2016 to 2017.
Leiva Alvarado said the aid would have a big impact on Honduras’ economy because of its dependency on it.
“We are talking about $120 million approximately which are directed towards health programs, security, prevention of violence, etc.,” she said.
“It would be very hard for us to fight hunger, poverty and insecurity without this type of aid.”
Leiva Alvarado said if she had the chance to speak to Trump and advocate for the rights of Honduran immigrants, she would tell him to stop making the immigrants look like “the bad guys.”
“There are so many factors that drive people to make such a hard decision [of] leaving their country,” she said. “It is not easy.”