President Donald Trump lashed out on Monday at a group of Central American asylum seekers traveling to the United States, calling their caravan “a disgrace” and claiming he’d instructed the Department of Homeland Security to bar them from entering the country. (“WALL,” he added.)
Monday’s tweet marked the second time Trump addressed the asylum caravan directly. Earlier this month, he implored Mexico to “stop them at their Northern Border.”
As the president later acknowledged, Mexican authorities have, in fact, taken great strides to break up the caravan, which largely consists of families from Honduras seeking asylum from violence in their home country. At this point only “the most vulnerable individuals” remain in the group, Rodrigo Abeja, a member of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which coordinated the caravan, told Splinter.
Approximately 50 members of the caravan have already arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. Ten of them opted to turn themselves directly into American authorities, while others are waiting for more caravan members to join them before attempting to press on.
It is unclear what practical effect Trump’s tweet will have on the asylum seekers. The Department of Homeland Security has not released any statements responding to the president’s message. I have reached out to DHS to ask whether Trump’s tweet marks a change in its border policy, and whether these specific asylum seekers will now face a different set of challenges from others seeking refuge in the United States. I will update this story with any response.
According to Abeja, many of the caravan participants who have opted not to complete their journey into the United States have been granted humanitarian visas by the Mexican government.
Update, 1:50 PM: The Department of Homeland Security has released the following statement:
DHS continues to monitor the remnants of the ‘caravan’ of individuals headed to our Southern border with the apparent intention of entering the United States illegally. A sovereign nation that cannot – or worse, chooses not – to defend its borders will soon cease to be a sovereign nation. The Trump Administration is committed to enforcing our immigration laws – whether persons are part of this ‘caravan’ or not.
If members of the ‘caravan’ enter the country illegally, they will be referred for prosecution for illegal entry in accordance with existing law. For those seeking asylum, all individuals may be detained while their claims are adjudicated efficiently and expeditiously, and those found not to have a claim will be promptly removed from the United States.
DHS, in partnership with DOJ, is taking a number of steps to ensure that all cases and claims are adjudicated promptly – including sending additional USCIS asylum officers, ICE attorneys, DOJ Immigration Judges, and DOJ prosecutors to the Southern border.
Again, if you enter the United States illegally, let me be clear: you have broken the law. And we will enforce the law through prosecution of illegal border crossers.
DHS encourages persons with asylum or other similar claims to seek protections in the first safe country they enter, including Mexico. While we are committed to doing everything we can on the border to secure our nation, we need Congress to do their job as well. I join the President in asking Congressional leadership to work with the Administration to pass legislation to close the legal loopholes that prevent us from securing our borders and protecting Americans. I stand ready to work with any member who in good faith seeks to support DHS’s mission and secure our country.