They come by the thousands, crossing the Mexican border and risking their lives on the long journey north.
Many don't make it. They get hit by cars, starve to death or die quietly in fields. But the U.S. government wants to do what it can to make their trip safer.
We're talking, of course, about Monarch butterflies.
Yes, Uncle Sam is taking steps to ease and safeguard migration routes for insects. It's a preferential treatment that migrating humans can only dream of.
The butterfly assistance program comes after President Obama, who has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other U.S. president, ordered the creation of a federal strategy to promote “pollinator habitat conservation” along the I-35, a 1,500-mile corridor that extends from the Texas southern border up to Minnesota.
It's a route that’s used by Monarch butterflies migrating northward every Spring and returning to Mexico each Fall.
Last week the Federal Highway Administration and transportation representatives from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas signed an agreement to help "protect, plant and manage pollinator habitats, and develop strategies for pollinator-friendly seed mixes” along the corridor. The Federal Highway Administration has also proposed to informally refer to the route as “Monarch Highway" as part of an effort to boost declining monarch populations due to “shrinking stands of milkweed, on which butterflies feed and lay eggs,” according to the Associated Press.
Butterflies are the lucky ones. Humans trying to make a similar northbound journey are finding the route is increasingly difficult and perilous. Since 2014, immigration activists argue that U.S. officials have urged the Mexican government to launch a crackdown on Central American migrants in southern Mexico to take some of the enforcement pressure off the U.S. border.
In an article in the New York Times writer Sonia Nazario claims the U.S. has given Mexico “tens of millions of dollars” to stop these Central American migrants from reaching the U.S. border. Consequently, more people are trying to seek different routes that are less patrolled and more obscure, which makes them easy prey for trafficking, rape, theft and extortion at the hands of organized crime.
The Mexican government’s crackdown of the train line known as “La Bestia” was only a symbolic hit against pervasive human-rights abuses that has pushed migrants to take much riskier and dangerous routes, activists say.
In addition there’s been calls to militarize the U.S. border and even build a Trump-brand “beautiful wall” to stop undocumented immigration flows.
Chances are, Trump's wall would be equally ineffective at stopping bugs or humans with an instinct to migrate. But once inside the country, the butterflies would find U.S. immigration policies towards insects much more accommodating than U.S. immigration policy towards people.