*Yeah, I know I said I’d be back today. Turns out I have a doctor’s appointment at noon (long story) and then there’s an unavoidable errand in the afternoon, plus I’m still mired in short story mostly because I can’t get to my research books, which is why I’ve been painting/resurfacing the bookshelves…. yeah. (I’ll post a picture when they’re all up, but it turns out we need to put the flooring in first, because… well, because these are kind of permanent. Unless we win the lottery and I have a library tower built or something.) So I was researching on ebook — which I hate — all through the weekend, and I’ve been absent at PJM at the worst possible time.
I had no clue what to do today, until Bill sent me this. He says it really is the end of the series. Probably. And I will be back tomorrow, for sure. Unless the doctor tells me I’m dying. Considering this is an allergist, that’s highly unlikely. – SAH*
Examining the Migrant Horde- Pt 3—The Rogues Gallery by Bill Reader
A note to the readers on terminology: It has been correctly pointed out that I’ve called several countries on the North and Central American continents part of South America. Fair play to you. I have for years been in the somewhat lazy habit of combining South and Central America and even Mexico into one group because arguably, geopolitically, the interests and politics of South and Central American countries run together with each other much more than with ours. They are, indeed, part of the Southern areas of the Americas. However, that is not the conventional usage. I have tried to be more mindful of this conflation in this piece. [Yeah. I changed it to Latin America in the text, which serves same purpose. Also new commenter and fixating on this, I think betrays what Larry C. calls “dismiss, dismiss, dismiss” move.]
Welcome back to our continuing series on the Migrant Horde. In our first article we touched on the inconsistencies in media reporting regarding how fast the “migrant caravan” (or should I say, the first one) was going. We explored that vehicles are essential for them to travel at the speed they have, and discussed what’s transpired since, including the strange situation with the charter buses.
In our second article we met our key players, including the LIBRE party (relatively poorly known in American media), which Bartolo Fuentes was a representative of, and which formulated the seeds of this whole thing. We met Pueblo Sin Fronteras, learned a bit about the structure of the migrant caravan, and explored what’s currently known about how they’re keeping fed, hydrated—and paid—on the road.
Today it’s time for us to meet the people themselves, to the greatest extent that that’s possible. That means, these days, that we first need to tabulate. Up until now we’ve talked, for simplicity, about migrant caravan number one, mostly because it’s the best reported on, it’s the one most likely to hit the border before November 6th (which I suppose is probably tomorrow, if these posts go up as planned), and how it’s handled is going to be the biggest determinant of—well, everything really. Not just how we deal with all of these caravans, but more generally, whether America has the fortitude to stand by its beliefs, rather than following the same dark path that Germany followed out of a surplus of thorough naiveté. Many Americans right now are banking on the fact that Trump is not Angela Merkel. We have a chance, at least.
But as those following the issue closely are aware, there are actually several migrant caravans that we’ve essentially been ignoring for simplicity. Knowing what kind of an extended study I made of the first, I’ll reassure you that I’m not going to belabor the others as thoroughly. But hopefully, by the end of this, we will have discussed each group in enough detail to have some idea of their composition and size, to the extent that they vary or are known. More broadly, who are the migrants? What is their aggregate view on America, and on the countries they are fleeing? What kind of people are they?
Because it is of interest to the topic, I’d like to briefly touch on the argument for why these people are properly defined as “migrants”, and not “refugees”. I’ve explained at some length why this is mostly of interest on the Right, so I’ll keep it brief. But it’s worth discussing up front, because today is all about getting to know the nature of the horde.
The UN-approved definition of a refugee is given in the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees, Article I-A, which states that a refugee is a person who: “…owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country” (The original convention constrains this to results of events prior to 1951, but the 1967 Protocol removed that restriction. We are a party on the 1967 protocol. The other instrument it might help to be aware of is the 1980 refugee act, which incorporated that definition formally into our own law.).
It so happens that this convention, specifically, and the modifying protocol and act noted above, are still the basis of our definition for a refugee. And neither of the latter substantially changes the parameters regarding who we let in, as defined above. Moreover, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, people must be of “special humanitarian concern to the United States”. So, let’s run down the list. Are these people being persecuted for reasons of race? Nope—they’re all, or, well, mostly Latin, anyway. Religion? Not that any of them have said. Quotes suggest they’re mostly Catholic, or at least Christian of some denomination. Nationality? Hardly—especially after we talk about some other attributes of the horde. If they’re having a tiff with their home countries, it’s surely a lover’s tiff. Membership of a particular social group or political opinion? Well, lord knows the Left will try that one on for size if they’ll try anything. The nucleus of the first group is hard left, and the frontman of said group is hard left, so if I had to guess I’d say the group probably leans left. They had their preferred candidate deposed for trying to change the constitution of Honduras— but though Democrats seem to struggle with this concept, unchallenged leftist leadership is not a basic human right. “We didn’t get our way over everyone” is not persecution. And in any case, when we add in the other caravans, even that unifying distinction may become blurry. “Social group” could mean anything, up to and including the fact that a lot of them are poor. But again, they’re not being persecuted for being poor—being poor in Latin America is just tragically common.
Moreover, systematic persecution is not what they’re laying claim to. What they’re laying claim to as the cause for their leaving is relatively unambiguous and repeated with drumbeat uniformity:
-“fleeing a toxic mix of violence, poverty and corruption” (Reuters).
-“fleeing widespread poverty and violence” (Fox).
-“fleeing violence and murderous gangs” (ABC).
Well, I’m very sorry to tell you, but though that sounds genuinely unpleasant, none of that is anywhere in our qualifying definition for refugee. Nor, even if we set all that aside for the sake of argument, are they of any special humanitarian concern to the United States—or I should say, to the extent there is humanitarian concern in this case, it is less for them, and more because of them.
Some people will try to throw ink in the water by referring to the UN Refugee Agency definition, which includes people who are “outside their country of origin because of feared persecution, conflict, violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order”. One small problem. That definition is one we never agreed to be bound by. While there are international conventions that do contain wording similar to this—Such as The OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, and the Cartagena Declaration handling Latin America, from my research, the US is not a signatory on any of these instruments, nor any that I could find which allow people to claim refugee status solely on the basis of conflict, violence, or a breakdown of public order.
Bottom line, these people are not refugees. And by the way, Newsweek, that means they’re also not asylum seekers. Homeland Security will be happy to explain why: “An asylee is a person who meets the definition of refugee and is already present in the United States or is seeking admission at a port of entry” (emphasis mine). Well, I should say: you can seek asylum all you want. If you don’t meet the criteria for a refugee, by definition you are not going to be an asylee, either. And while there seems to be no really good, reliable definition of migrant, in practice the way the term is being used—non-refugee traveling outside their own country—is apt. Really, they uniformly sound like economic migrants, given they note they’re fleeing poverty. For that matter, as Breitbart pointed out, and as was noted by CBS in passing, some of them just outright admit they want jobs— preferably in the US. Which might explain why when Mexico offered them ” shelter, medical attention, schooling and jobs” in Mexico under the “You are at home” plan, their response, as NBC details it, was to shout “Thank You! No, we’re heading North!”. That’s a verbatim quote, apparently. So make that picky economic migrants. To whom, legally, I can find nothing whatsoever indicating we owe anything.
Now let’s talk about the ethnicities each caravan is composed of, as well as recent size and location. We know that the meat of the group started with Hondurans as previously discussed. Salvadorans have been interviewed as part of that group. The way the group swelled as it passed through Guatemala strongly suggests there are Guatemalans mixed in. There are also likely a fair number of Mexicans who added themselves to the group around about the 20th/21st of October. Recall that 2,000-odd people made it across the bridge, but their overall numbers nevertheless swelled “to about 5,000 overnight”, per CBS.
But frankly, who knows who else. Continuing on our theme that the Spanish language media seems to be picking up a lot of stuff lost on American reporters— a Unavision reporter named Francisco Santa Anna reported that he met people from Bangladesh who had “infiltrated” the crowd and were first noticed while the group was crossing Guatemala. The Daily Caller noted they were later detained at an immigration facility. Just a reminder that Guatemala reported that they’ve caught almost 100 people associated with ISIS in their territory and deported them— so infiltration by this group has been an ongoing problem for them. Oh, and Bengladesh’s official religion is islam, to which over 90% of the population are adherents. DHS lays claim to an even broader group of people, stating that they see individuals from “over 20 countries”, including “Somalia, India, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh”.
Is that an overestimate, or on the other hand, is that even comprehensive? Ah, that’s the trouble, really. The people who added themselves to the caravan, obviously, weren’t being tabulated or vetted as they added themselves, so it’s impossible to know how big a security risk this is or isn’t. It sounds distinctly non-zero, though. People crossing rivers instead of getting processed isn’t helping the case, either. It’s almost like there’s a reason we don’t take immigrants this way. Sizewise, recent reports show that the first caravan has fluctuated up and down. It reached a peak of around 7,000 around the 21st (here reported at The Insider, but easy enough to confirm). Most recently it has an estimated size of around 3-4,000 people per CBS news.
May I also add, from this same article—I missed this as I was catching up on business—that it was also reported that the ever-flip-flopping Mexican government formally acquiesced to providing buses to the horde. I offer a quote from governor Miguel Angel Yunes—”For that reason, we also offered them transportation so that, if possible, tomorrow … they may be able to go to Mexico City or to the place they wish.”. Then he reneged on it, per AP. But only sort of— per MSNBC he offered to take them to another city in Veracruz because Mexico City’s water supply is undergoing maintenance. It’s not really clear whether they took the offer or not, but I will say that they’ve continued moving in Veracruz. And interestingly the group continues to move at a respectable clip—they hit Isla, Veracruz, on the 3rd, and they were in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, 160 miles away, on the 1st.
The second caravan seems to have likewise started in Honduras and headed to Mexico through Guatemala. The CBS report above, and this AP article, report that there also Salvadorans in that caravan, and estimate its current size as around 1,000-1,500. Most recently they hit Mapastepec, Chiapas, following in the footsteps of the first group as they advance up the coast.
The third caravan, for variety, seems to have originated in El Salvador, so by default the group had to go through Guatemala. It’s most recent size as of Saturday was about 1,000-1,500 people per the AP. Last I can find, they waded the Suchiate River on Friday, after the Mexican authorities “told those traveling in it they would have to show passports and visas and enter in groups of 50 for processing.”.
And now we’re hearing that a group of “central Americans”, about 300 strong, is walking in the state of Veracruz, as reported by MSNBC. Just to clarify, this group actually appears to be further ahead of everyone. That I can tell, nobody knows where they actually started. Mexico itself seems a likely source if it’s a fourth caravan. It could also be the leading vanguard of the first caravan, if they made more distance than everyone else. There’s some circumstantial evidence for that, as Fox news reports: “But other migrants, mainly men and the younger members of the group, kept on walking or hitching rides toward Puebla and Mexico City.” Those also sound like demographics that might jump freight trains, as was discussed by my addendum to the first article.
By the way, if you’re curious as to why I’m not doing as deep a dive on the origins of all the groups—besides not wanting to bore you to death— it’s mostly because of inherent uncertainty in covering these groups. As you can gather from the above, the numbers and modes of travel are mercurial even when reported day over day. And the caravans are not all covered to the same depth.
At present, to the best of my knowledge, the first caravan’s organization is the only one that has been significantly elucidated. The others are anybody’s best guess. The second could conceivably also be the handiwork of LIBRE, since it also started in Honduras. The third I’m totally in the dark on. Bartolo Fuentes ran to El Salvador in his most recent self-imposed exile. Does he also have contacts on the ground there who could have started it? Perhaps. Also, we still don’t know who was handing out money to migrants in the first caravan in Guatemala, but presumably they had some relationship to the organization of the caravan. DHS‘s sources say they were handing money to women to move to the front of the caravan, which they frame as strategic, to form a human shield— but could be an ultimately failed public relations move, and in either case suggests higher-level organization with ready cash (or, I suppose, they could have just been some of your friendly neighborhood gratuitous-money-providers, as one so often encounters these days). Could the people who provided the money have reach into El Salvador? Or did we just reach a tipping point and embolden serial migrant groups, of the kind that bombarded Germany? Unfortunately, I was unable to find definitive answers, so at the present moment I can only speculate. As for the fourth caravan— well, current reporting makes it hard to tell if it’s new, or simply the result in a schism of the first caravan, over two consecutive on-again-off-again offers of buses.
From the above we can tell this much—from available information it doesn’t seem that anybody involved comes anywhere near the definition of refugees—which, of course, we knew. Their goal seems to be to come to the US—and they mean to come to the US specifically— because it’s more stable and less poor than their home countries. Those aren’t among the recognized reasons we would admit people, and this is wise policy, since we’re more stable and less poor than most countries within two continents.
The groups probably do derive most of their members from Latin America. But the first added significant numbers of members in Guatemala, and the second and third are presumed to have picked up people there as well. A touch disturbing, since Guatemala has had significant problems with ISIS insinuating itself into the local population and people from an overwhelmingly Islamic country have been seen in the crowd. FrontPageMag provides a handy reference on prior times terrorists have been caught trying to cross the Southern border, for further context on the subject. How the extra caravans are being organized, we’re not sure, but all the groups are sizeable, with two out of three in the low thousands. It sounds like even this is just the start, which is probably not a surprise given how quickly numerous groups have suddenly appeared, arguing that this may have inspired several spontaneous groups with more spontaneous origins. “Everybody wants to form another caravan,” says Tony David Gálvez, a Honduran farmworker, to the NYT. How reassuring. All of which, I think, makes it overridingly important that we demonstrate resolute firmness with the first horde.
But what kind of people are they? Of course, every news source is reporting individual cases. This group seems even less likely to respond to a poll than Republican voters are right now. At all events, we know they’re looking for heartbreaking stories for their liberal readership, so that’s most of what we’ll get. How much those stories are being filtered from the crowd at large is hard to say.
What might say more about the group as a whole is things they’ve done together. Things like march under the Honduran Flag, which they are seen doing in the pictures at the Daily Caller here, and separately by NBC news here (slides 13, 24, 29 and 35), and again by Bloomberg here. And by the body text in the LA Times here: “Most of the migrants are citizens of Honduras, and many waved its blue-and-white national flag”. And lately you can find pictures of the Mexican flag being added to the first group, by a local news outlet in NY here. Moreover you can add what the first group did when they got to the Suchiate river: “…hundreds had walked to the river’s edge where they sang the national anthems of Honduras and Guatemala,” (AP).
May I also note parenthetically that the leaders wearing their soccer jerseys put me in mind of the Football war, where Honduras and El Salvador fought over a World Cup qualifier? Wiki notes this rather amusing detail in their report on it: “The roots were issues over land reform in Honduras and immigration and demographic problems in El Salvador.” Apparently Honduras had gotten rather fed up with, get this, illegal immigration from El Salvador, and taken away land Salvadorans were occupying illegally. More seriously, I would mind you that, while we Americans tend to think of soccer as a harmless game of chance (at least look at the link before you grab a pitchfork), representation of your country in soccer is taken seriously enough in our Southern neighbors that a soccer match can trigger a war. When you see people leading the group kitted out in soccer apparel, to me, at least, that re-contextualizes things slightly. The point of all this being that, considering these people are represented to us as universally agreeing their home country is the pits, they’re quite excited about said home country. And referring back to my article, “Not Just Any Huddled Masses”, as a gesture from a group asking the US to admit them, I can imagine almost nothing less ingratiating.
Oh, wait. Yes, I can. I can imagine the groups forcing their way through the border —twice. Once when the first group knocked down the fence as shown by CBS, and once when the second group pushed their way through it, as noted by NBC news. I can imagine them throwing rocks at the police—twice. Once by the first group as noted by BBC here on October 20th, and once by the second group as reported by the Daily Caller on the 29th, with what I would call my very favorite picture from this mess so far. Quoth the Daily Caller, “Navarrate Pida said the migrants attacked officers with rocks, glass bottles and fireworks and that some of the migrants were carrying firearms,”. Or I could imagine the second group throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, per the LA Times. (President Trump has at least responded to this appropriately, saying: “They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. I told them to consider it a rifle.” Well, it is a primitive missile, after all. And those who consider this overkill are not, I think, overly familiar with the dynamics of crowds. If you let them get emboldened by throwing rocks, you’re going to be dealing with an outright riot within a minute or two, and then you either get to kill them all as they advance, or fight in a nasty scrum.).
What kind of people would act this way? Well, what a good question. Fox has an answer for you. “Criminals are everywhere,” one migrant told Fox News. “It’s criminals in here. It is. But it is not that many. It is good people here trying to get through Mexico and then get to the United States. It doesn’t mean that everybody is a criminal.”. Not that anyone said everyone was. We’ll talk about that.
“We aren’t killers,” said Stephany Lopez, a 21-year-old Salvadoran with the first caravan.” per CBS news. She’s right. Well, not successful killers, anyway, as noted by Fox’s interview with a man named Jose who admits to a criminal record including attempted murder (mirrored here at The Daily Caller). Then there are Carlos “N” and Jerson “N” of Honduras, who opened fire on Mexican federal police as reported by, of course, Spanish-language media at gob.mx, and picked up by Breitbart. The original story says this (translated) “the two foreign subjects…when noticing themselves of the presence of the federals (sic), began to shoot them of direct way (sic) in their attempt to flee,”. That kind of sounds like they were known criminals, to me. Funny the MSM missed ’em, eh?
Actually, I take it back. Maybe they do have a killer. A 26 year old man was noted to die of a head wound after being shot with a rubber bullet when the second group met the border police, as noted here by Newsweek. That’s curious, given that “Mexican officers had not been carrying any guns or revolvers that would have fired rubber bullets”. While rubber bullets certainly can kill, especially when aimed at the head, usually the whole point of them is not to. Is this a stage rehearsal for Maria De La Cruz? I suppose we’ll see.
Meanwhile, note this tweet from Tyler Q. Houlton, DHS Press Secretary: “@DHSgov can confirm that there are individuals within the caravan who are gang members or have significant criminal histories.”. More specifically, as noted in the report released on November 1st from DHS, “over 270 individuals along the caravan route have criminal histories, including known gang membership”. Furthermore, ” Mexican officials have also publicly stated that criminal groups have infiltrated the caravan”. How they determined this is unclear, although there are enough pictures of the caravan that criminologists could, perhaps, have determined it from examining publically available images. In all cases, Mexico doesn’t have the strongest incentive to lie about this, since the worse the composition of the caravan, the more it makes their somewhat limp response look bad.
Wait. Hang on a moment. 270? Taking upper estimates of the four caravans presently known, that’s one group of 4,000, two groups of 1,500, and one of about 300, or 7,300 in all. So, about 3.7% of the caravan members have a known criminal history, by the most conservative estimates. If we take the lower estimates on size, there are about 5,300 people, at which point over 5% — or to put it another way, more than 1 in 20 people in the aggregate group— are criminals. I would call that a, ah, significant consideration.
Not that this demonstrates anything vis a vis the above, but even the people who aren’t criminals are—well— may I introduce to you Maria Irias Rodriguez, who is a walking math problem. “If they stop us now, we’ll just come back a second time,” the 17 year old, traveling with her husband and 2 children, told The Insider. How old are the kids, you say? She has an “8-month-old daughter, [and] 2-year-old son” (NYTimes). Joining the caravan, it seems, was not the first of her poor life decisions. [To be fair, she might not have had any choice in any of it- SAH]
I offer also, for flavor, this lady calling Donald Trump the antichrist on an interview with CNN (mirrored on The Political Insider). Perhaps the job she’s coming over here for is DNC spokesperson. Interestingly, the much publicized flag burning is not on this list. It doesn’t seem to have been done by people in the caravan, though it was a protest in favor of those people as reported on Breitbart, and these muffins were also caught on camera burning tires in front of the US Embassy as noted in The Daily Mail.
What does all this leave us with? Well, given the uniform participation in flag carrying and anthem singing, it seems that “foreign nationalists” would be a fair characterization of the average crowd member. I can’t tell you in precise detail how likely any one person is to commit violence, but I can say from the above they have a pretty alarming number of people with criminal histories in the group, if the published numbers are to be believed. And, of course, actions speak louder than words—we’ve seen at least two caravans get violent with border police, throwing rocks at them, and forcing their way through the border fence. As for the reports of shooting at federal police, and throwing Molotov cocktails— well, your mileage may vary, but I consider the first instance of that kind of behavior a generous excess. And in the context of Islamic terrorism being a constant problem and threat, Univision has independently reported Bangladeshis in the crowd. DHS, meanwhile, says that’s only the beginning.
In the end, not only are we not obligated to take these people, we have ample reason to be every bit as brisk as President Trump has been. It’s my hope that he continues to stand firm. They’re transparently disinterested in becoming Americans. They see America as a kind of prize to be taken, and never mind the opposition. They are already massing in disturbing numbers. If there was ever a time for America to demonstrate her exceptionalism, and handle this better than Europe handled the same challenge, now is that time. They say they’re fleeing violence and lawlessness. But they’re casually disregarding our laws, if not simply expressing contempt for them. And they’re getting violent with people who oppose them. They are demonstrating, in fact, that they are not just beholden to their home countries, but to the very behaviors that have made them intolerable.
These are not people casting off their old lands. On the contrary, they are taking their screwed-up homes on tour, and showing the world just how bad they are firsthand. But I will say that increasingly, nobody can look at their home countries and suppose the way things are is an accident. For people trying to flee lawlessness and violence, it’s curious how insistent they seem on bringing them along for the journey.