Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said unequivocally Tuesday that the migrant caravan headed for the United States would be stopped.
A group of Latin American migrants, largely Honduran, is currently making a thousands-mile journey through Mexico to the United States. The "caravan," which includes thousands of women and children, has swelled to some 7,000 individuals.
In comments delivered from the podium at the State Department, Pompeo noted that "the migrant caravan is violating Mexico’s sovereignty." President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off foreign aid to Mexico if it fails to address the issue before it reaches America’s border. "President Trump will not stand for this to happen to the United States," Pompeo said.
The United States has in the past worked with Mexico to deport unlawful migrants, offering funding in exchange for compliance. Since 2014, Mexico has had a "Frontera Sur" ("Southern Border") policy, which seeks to constrain the number of Latin American migrants moving through Mexico en route to the United States.
A similar caravan made the trek towards the United States earlier this year. Both the current caravan and the earlier one were organized by the group Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders). In that case, Mexico offered asylum to eligible migrants. That caravan numbered just over 1,000.
Pueblo Sin Fronteras accused the Mexican and Central American governments of "racism" against the migrants "imposed by the United States." The group maintains the migrants should be granted entry into these "racist" countries for a better life.
Pompeo noted that more than 30 million people have legally migrated to the United States. "Legal immigration is the surest way to obtain the better life you are looking for," Pompeo said. For those with a pressing need for asylum or other claim to entry, Pompeo assured they would be accommodated. "Go through the normal refugee process," he said.
For those who refuse to comply with the laws of the countries they seek to enter, Pompeo was perspicuous. "The caravan will not cross our southern border illegally under any circumstances," he said. "You will not be successful at getting into the U.S. illegally"
The visibility of the thousands of migrants illegally entering countries has further ignited the debate over illegal immigrant populations in the United States. A recent Yale University study found that the true number of illegal immigrant's in the U.S. could be twice the official estimate. The model used "suggests that the actual undocumented immigrant population may be more than 22 million." Some at the New York Times have fretted that the thousands of migrants "have almost materialized" as a "political gift" to Republicans weeks before the election.
Though Pompeo did not claim there were "Middle Eastern" migrants in the caravan, as Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have suggested, he stressed there was no way to know everyone among them. This, he argues, posed an "unacceptable security risk."
On Tuesday night, Trump shared a video of President Barack Obama making much the same point, albeit prior to his presidency. "We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked," Obama, then a senator, said. "Those who enter the country illegally and those who employ them disrespect the rule of law."
Migrants moving illegally between countries unimpeded has also encouraged others to undertake the same perilous journey. As of Wednesday morning, another migrant caravan was gathering on the Honduran border with Guatemala, the Wall Street Journal reports. It plans to follow the same route taken by the caravan currently moving through Mexico towards the United States. A U.S.-bound caravan is also in the works in El Salvador, NBC News reports.