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Deny Xenophobia: Let the Refugee Caravan In

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The story of the refugee caravan traveling through Mexico is one of profound desperation and sadness.

Thousands of refugees are making the long journey to the United States after fleeing their home countries due to economic poverty and seemingly endless political violence. They have gotten here only after several weeks of exhaustion and heartbreak, their journey seeing multiple government attempts to impede their progress and broken promises of transport, most notably a promise by Mexico to bus the caravan to Mexico City.

And the situation for the refugees, if not dire enough, stands to get worse as their route takes them through some of Mexico’s most dangerous areas. The threat of disappearances looms large, and as of the time of writing, there are already reports of caravan members being kidnapped along the route, most notably a group of 100 members taken by a drug cartel in the state of Puebla, south of Mexico City.

Of course, you wouldn’t know any of this if the only news you’ve seen on the caravan was from Donald Trump. In fact, if this was your only source, you’d probably believe we were about to be invaded by an army.

Trump has, among other things, claimed on Twitter that the caravan includes “MANY CRIMINALS” (his all caps), and that the caravan had been infiltrated by individuals from the Middle East. In addition, he has sent military units armed with guns and barbed wire fences to the border, threatened to end birthright citizenship, and has attempted to suspend asylum for undocumented immigrants crossing the border, a blatant rebuke of international humanitarian laws and norms.

To recycle the old line “I’m not surprised, but disappointed,” the general theme of this response shouldn’t surprise people. Trump has exhibited racist tendencies in his immigration positions all the way from the beginning with his infamous comments about Mexico, and, like any stalwart racist, he has continued to express views of this type up to the present day (need I really remind people of that?). For Trump to do a 180 and let the caravan in without any conflict, then, would be a change of position so extreme as to be incredibly unrealistic.

On the other hand, though, this response is bombastic and out-there even for him. If his prior responses to similar situations seemed inspired by oppressive strongmen, this response seems like it could have been lifted right from a strongman’s speech. It’s all there, from his promises of a grand military response and a crackdown on who he deems to be “CRIMINALS” right down to his promise of single handedly expunging a constitutional right in birthright citizenship that’s existed for more than a century.

And of course, in the context of history, this flies right in the face of what we, as a nation, have claimed to stand for. While the history of American immigration is certainly not perfect, the underlying theme that runs throughout this history is the notion that America was the embodiment of the city on a hill, welcoming, in the immortal words of Emma Lazarus, “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Trump’s response to the refugee caravan goes right along with his other immigration actions as a direct reversal of this history. It’s a disgusting response to a group of desperate men, women, and children fleeing economic and political oppression, and it’s a response that should be dismissed by conscious individuals for the blatant racism and xenophobia that it is. If we are the country we like to believe we are, we’d let the caravan in.

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