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    Normally Migrants Cross Through Mexico Without Too Much Difficulty – Scholar

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    Thousands of US-bound Central American migrants traveling in a caravan have broken through Mexico's southern border fences with Guatemala and some clashed with Mexican police. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has threatened to use military force to close the border with Mexico and cut aid to countries that allow the caravan to pass.

    Sputnik has discussed the caravan of Latin American migrants hoping to reach the United States with Mark Jones, Chair in Latin American Studies and the Director of the Master of Global Affairs Program at Rice University.

    Sputnik: In your view, what has prompted the migrants to take this hazardous dangerous journey from Honduras towards the United States? What's initiated this?

    Mark Jones: Well, the migration patterns from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are nothing new; even these caravans are not all that new. What's prompting them to flee is primarily a combination of two separate forces.

    READ MORE: Trump Thanks Mexico for Deterring Migrant Caravan

    One is deep, endemic poverty, that is Honduras and El Salvador are desperately poor countries, added on to that both in El Salvador and Honduras you have massive problems with criminal gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio Dieciocho (Barrio 18) are two of the main gangs who control much of Honduran and El Salvadorian territory and affectively make it very unsafe for Hondurans to go about their daily lives. So they're primarily fleeing for economic reasons and fleeing because of the violence from the criminal gangs.

    Sputnik: And why have they chosen the United States as their destination knowing the policy towards migrants under President Trump? In your opinion, is there some kind of underhand story behind this because this has been clearly reported for the last couple of days. It's obviously doing the rounds, it's very, very significant in its news worthiness. Is it almost being underwritten and instigated by a party, I'm trying to be Devil's Advocate, within the United States who are anti-Trump and obviously it's got implications with the midterms as well, what is the underlying story here?

    Mark Jones: I think, one, these caravans do occur. What's different is that this one is receiving far more media coverage and it's a little larger. I think on one hand you have left-wing activists in Honduras attempting to use the caravan and the publicity surrounding the caravan to undermine the presidency of Juan Orlando Hernandez, the current Honduran President.

    I think also President Trump is giving more attention to this caravan than he normally would in part because the midterms are coming up, and it's effectively being used by both sides. That is Democrats are using it to rally against President Trump‘s immigration policies. President Trump is also using it to rally his supporters by showing effectively the forces or individuals who want to come to the United States and the potential threats that this represents to US sovereignty; the idea of thousands of people crossing the US border without following proper procedures.

    Sputnik: And how successful has Mexico's efforts been to stop the caravan and dispatch police to the border? Where would those people go from there? There's all sorts of questions and implications with regard to this news story?

    Mark Jones: Normally, when there's not so much publicity these individuals cross through Mexico without too much difficulty, at least no harassment by Mexican police. Now, they are often subject to extortion, attacks and robberies by Mexican gangs as well as gangs that are affiliated with the police.

    READ MORE: Trump Slams Democrats for Refusal to Acknowledge 'Illegal Immigration Onslaught'

    Normally though, the Mexican government doesn't formally get involved in trying to keep them from crossing the border, but because the spotlight has been placed on the Guatemalan-Mexican border and President Trump has made it an issue Mexican authorities have gone to the border and will attempt to detain people who cross from Guatemala when they normally don't do anything of the kind.

    Now what they've said is effectively that anyone who does not have a passport will be either turned back or detained, but any Honduran with an actual valid passport, which many of them don't have, those individuals will be allowed to come through.

    Sputnik: How likely is President Trump to dispatch military forces to the border with regard to this particular situation on the Mexican border? Is that likely to happen?

    Mark Jones: No. Under US law the president cannot use the US military for internal factors. Now what he has done is he supported the movement of Texas National Guard Troops and other National Guard Troops to the border. Those individuals though can only function in observer fashion. They cannot be armed and they spend most of their time logistically supporting the border patrol who can arrest individuals who cross the border; but generally when people are coming across for asylum reasons, like these Hondurans are, the difficulty isn't in catching them.

    They're all surrendering as soon as they cross the border; it's processing them and then figuring out what to do with the politically sensitive issue of separating parents from their children which is the devil of the Trump administration for the past year, and the Trump administration wants to effectively prevent these individuals from coming into the United States but knows that it's found it politically implausible to separate parents from their children but the only option to separating parents from their children is effectively releasing the parents and the children into the population and allowing them to remain in the United States until their court case is held.

    READ MORE: Thousand-Strong Migrant 'March' Walking Toward US Border — Report

    And given the backlog of our immigration court system that can be up to two, two and a half years before they actually come to a judge to determine whether their asylum claim has merit or does not have merit.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mark Jones and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    migration, migrants, Donald Trump, Mexico, United States
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