The vast majority of the mainstream media commentary on the Northern Triangle migrant caravans seems to be predicated on the false presumption that caravan members had “no choice” but to abandon their own nations and head to the United States. According to the standard narrative, the migrants have become the victims of oppressive governments that mercilessly persecute them. They no longer have any political agency and therefore, are entitled to asylum in the United States.
However, that’s a fatally flawed analysis. According to the current group of migrants, they formed a caravan in order to protect themselves from gangs and drug cartels – but also in order to resist any Guatemalan and Mexican immigration officials who sought to bar their way. Indeed, on their way to the U.S., they stormed through Guatemala and subsequently rushed the fence along the Mexico/Guatemala border just as they are attempting to do in San Diego.
Along the course of their trek, as a group, they made demands for food, shelter, and transportation. And they clearly articulated what they believe they are owed by the U.S. government. Any time their demands weren’t met, they either protested or revolted, eventually rushing the U.S. border like warriors storming a medieval castle.
All of that begs a rather obvious question that media pundits have vigorously avoided. The members of the migrant caravan clearly have no problem organizing, making political demands, protesting and engaging in revolutionary violence aimed at achieving their political ends. And they seem remarkably comfortable confronting the Guatemalan, Mexican, and U.S. governments. So, why didn’t they stay home and revolt against the abuses in which they claim their own governments are engaging?
That’s a question that the U.S. should be asking. The purpose of asylum was never to allow large numbers of people who are dissatisfied with the economic and political climate in their country to sidestep the normal procedures for immigrating to the United States. Rather, it was intended as a method for extending protection to individuals who are truly unable to defend themselves against persecution at the hands of their own government.
The caravan members don’t appear to fit that profile. In fact, they seem more than able to defend their interests through deliberate and concerted political action (e.g. liaising with Mexican officials, demanding buses to Tijuana, giving media interviews, throwing rocks at Border Patrol agents, etc.). Accordingly, before even considering asylum, we should expect them to have already attempted similar forms of protest in order to improve their situation in their own countries. To paraphrase a hit song by 1990s rock group World Party, “If you say you want a revolution baby, there is nothing like your own…. Revolutionize at home.”