The 'National Emergency' South of the Border
President Donald Trump sparked nationwide outrage when he declared a ‘National Emergency’ along the southern border. Many argue he knowingly exercised an unneeded executive order, by Trump saying, “I don’t need to do this,” before signing the documents making the order official, which would unlock funding to his long-promised border wall. While this US emergency may be artificial, a real and dire sense of urgency remains for those south of the border.
Miguel Reyes, who chose to not use his real name for fear of being persecuted, left Honduras on January 15 to begin his journey towards the US-Mexican border with a group of people in a caravan. The twenty-year-old arrived in Tijuana after 32 days of traveling primarily by foot despite having a broken rib after being beaten up by gang members. The fear of being beaten up isn’t why Miguel left Honduras, the fear of being killed by the Mara, a gang otherwise known as MS-13, is why he fled his home country. Miguel's last encounter with them before fleeing was when they went to his work and threatened him. “They took all the payment from my [paycheck], then they forced to tie me to the Mara… They threatened me with death and my family too, so I cannot return to my country,” said Reyes.
Miguel is one of the thousands of people in Tijuana who made the same journey from Central America in hopes of seeking asylum in the United States. He is one of thousands of people who came with a caravan that Trump says should be feared. “A big new Caravan is heading up to our Southern Border from Honduras,” president Trump said in a tweet on January 15. “Only a Wall, or Steel Barrier, will keep our Country safe!”
Exactly a month after that tweet, the president declared a national emergency during a press conference at the White House. The decision led to sixteen states filing to sue president Donald Trump. The suit, led by California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra, states, “By the President’s own admission, an emergency declaration is not necessary. The federal government’s own data prove there is no national emergency at the southern border that warrants construction of a wall.” The document also references Customs and Border Protection data showing that illegal entries into the US are at an all-time 45-year low.
"There is a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border that requires urgent action," Trump said during a press briefing on January 19 at the White House. Many aid groups agree with the president on the existence of a humanitarian crisis at the southern border, but not on how it is being dealt with. "A humanitarian crisis demands a humanitarian response. Building a wall does nothing to protect vulnerable people," Doctors without Borders tweeted on January 9.
Miguel still remains vulnerable in Tijuana, despite fleeing death in his home country. Due to a lack of resources, Miguel has been spending his nights sleeping on the streets in Tijuana, ranked as the fifth most dangerous city in the world, according to a Citizen Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice report, as he awaits his asylum case number to be called.
Two Honduran migrant teenagers were brutally murdered last year on December 15, after being kidnapped and tortured. According to the Baja California Attorney General’s Office, they were two of the 2,506 people killed in the city last year in 2018.
As other groups of migrant caravans continue to make their way to the southern border, the humanitarian crisis continues to grow.