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The migrant caravan from Central America is arguably on the collision course with a defiant President Donald Trump who has brazenly embraced the nationalist flag and adopted strict non-entree immigration policies. With the political rhetoric reaching searing hate levels up to the mid-term elections and after, the Republican-led government will have to prepare legal sandbags to stop the human avalanche heading towards the US-Mexico border.
Clearly, the humanitarian crisis described by President Trump as an “invasion,” has emboldened both sides to rush to the border in a confrontational mood. It is unlikely that the caravan will come to a grinding halt at the sight of 15,000 armed soldiers. The world now waits to see if the American president will mount a nationalist flag of conquest over hapless refugees in need of international protection.
The Latin Americas caravan has again awakened the debate on the blurred distinction between economic migrants and de-facto refugees. According to media reports, the sizeable group, of 7,000 plus immigrants, is coming from the “poor and violent nation of Honduras”.
The narrative in this phrase suggests that the immigrants are trying to turn unbearable social-economic conditions in their country into points of law. It crudely hints on the unconfirmed innuendo that the “river of people” flowing toward the land of freedom and liberty is not only made up of illegal immigrants but also contaminated with violent terrorists from the Middle-East. This connotation does not address the element of persecution and “well-founded fear” which epitomizes the refugees.
The decision to leave one’s home country is one never taken lightly. It is spurred by the human spirit of preservation and survival when faced with life-threatening situations. In a country where one’s basic survival needs cannot be tethered on the volatile Lempiras currency and living in constant fear of being terrorized from city gangs and criminals, the urge to flee to a safe country is natural.
Therefore, the template which makes up a “true refugee” as per the UNHCR 1951 Refuge Convention should not be translated to the new profile of a global refugee who is a product of current global economic inequalities. Refuge studies acknowledge that the profile of the 21st-century refugee has dramatically changed as the fear of persecution is largely driven by economic deprivation.
President Trump’s new tune, “I’m a nationalist,” released on the backdrop of a flurry of pipe bombs sent to his critics and the deaths of the defenceless Jewish worshippers in Pittsburg, might stop the caravan in its tracks. The eerie sound of violent hate encoded in the political song instils fear of secondary persecution for the refugees as they come head-on with the nationalist mantra which loudly says “Nobody is coming in.”
The sight of tired and hungry unarmed migrants of all ages should awaken Congress obligations under international law. Asylum Law 101 basics implore the American government to respect the negative obligation of non-refoulement espoused in Article 33 of the Refugee Convention, which states that countries should not return asylees back to countries they are fleeing persecution.
Brett Kavanaugh can lull over his confirmation battle by advising the President that international law requires the United States to fairly screen each migrant to determine with certainty if they have a well-founded fear of persecution. Issuing blanket accusations against the migrants will not stop the caravan from moving toward safety.
Embrace the moment Mr. President and sing the nationalist anthem with a legal heart! The Refugee Act of 1980 and numerous treaties adopted by the USA obliges its government to pay judicial deference to the basic tenets of the rule of law.
An avalanche of accusatory tweets from the Oval Office has been directed to the Democrats and of course George Soros for the current humanitarian crisis. Democrats; both sane and “crazy” if one is to believe Senator Claire McCaskill, have been blamed by the Republicans for propping up “pathetic Immigration laws” in search of the blue votes.
Soros, a Jewish billionaire, has been caught up in the eye of the nationalist hurricane as responsible for sponsoring the great trek from the Americas. The tag “The Jew” doing rounds on social media is reminiscent of the anti-semitism sentiments and sows seeds of hate and aversion in a country largely built and developed by immigrants.
The accusations miss the point! Migrants from Central America are fleeing economic persecution, generalized violence, and events “seriously disturbing public order” in the Latin American fragile countries. The thrust, President Trump should aim toward is finding a holistic legal approach that addresses the refugee conundrum, rather than a dismissive nationalist attitude which further divides a diverse nation on the edge.
Opinion by Shepherd Mutsvara
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
USA TODAY: Republicans should support work visas. They’d help business and ease the caravan problem
Featured and Top Images Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flikr Page – Creative Commons License