McKenzie Schuessler, Staff Writer
If you’ve been on the internet in the past four days, I’m sure you’ve either seen or heard of the viral photo of a mother running with her two small children to get away from tear gas that was thrown in her direction by U.S. Border Patrol. The mother is just one of thousands of migrant Central Americans fleeing their homeland in hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, “Gang warfare and violence have transformed parts of Central America into some of the most dangerous places on earth. In recent years, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala (known as the Northern Triangle) have experienced a dramatic escalation in organized crime by gangs, called maras.” And in under U.S. Asylum law migrants fleeing gang violence from their country qualify for asylum in the United States.
With many families in Central America feeling threatened, they have decided to flee together in hopes of a safer future for not just themselves, but also their children. The journey these migrants have taken, is not any easy one. By the time they reach the U.S. Border at Tijuana, Mexico, they have trekked 2,700 miles.
Under international law, the U.S. is required to hear the claims from these migrants seeking asylum legally or illegally. However, under the Trump Administration these migrant families are looked at as ‘criminals’ and a ‘threat to our economy.’ Instead having sympathy and being humane, President Trump is treating these migrants as an invasion. The administration is saying that many of these migrants are criminals and are not actually coming for asylum, but refuse to show the evidence to prove that accusation correct. He has even sent 5,800 troops to the border to make sure the migrants do not come into the United States, even though they’re seeking asylum.
Now, majority of the Caravan are at the U.S. Border in Tijuana, Mexico. Tensions are rising in Tijuana by residents and by the migrants. Some migrants face the possibility of having to wait up to a year to have their claim heard by U.S. authorities. A few days ago, protestors and migrant tensions grew so out of control, many migrants rushed the border in hopes of crossing. U.S. Border Patrol used tear gas in hopes of dispersing the migrants from crossing. In the midst of the Border Patrol unleashing canisters of tear gas, many children and women were caught in the crossfires.
Many Politicians are looking at these actions by the Trump Administration as un-American and inhumane move. In reference to the viral photo of the mother and her two children, Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom tweeted, “These children are barefoot. In diapers. Choking on tear gas. Women and children who left their lives behind— seeking peace and asylum— were met with violence and fear. That’s not my America. We’re a land of refuge. Of hope. Of freedom. And we will not stand for this.”
I personally, could not agree more with Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom. One of the reasons I am most proud to be an American is because throughout history we’ve always been a country willing to help refugees seeking asylum, but that’s not America in 2018. America in 2018 assumes every migrant is a criminal. America in 2018 doesn’t care to hear claims of asylum from migrants. However, the sad truth is this is not the first time tear gas has been used on migrants seeking asylum in the United States. Under the Obama administration, tear gas canisters were also used to disperse migrants.
There are talks among politicians that this Caravan of migrants, may force Congress to fix the broken system of hearing asylum claims and I hope more than anything that will be the case. Approaching the end of 2018, I think America needs to do a lot of reflection. As a country, we can do better. We can humanely manage these migrants.
As our first President George Washington said, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respected Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.”