It seems as though overnight, the words “migrant caravan” have become embedded in the nation’s vocabulary. The term is splashed across television networks’ chyrons and national newspapers. President Donald Trump has raised the ongoing caravan at rallies as a threat to the United States and cited it as a reason for an overhaul of the country’s immigration laws.
But migrant caravans aren’t new—and they’re not going away.
For years, advocacy groups have organized caravans to help those fleeing danger in Central America safely reach the United States, and, in the process, highlight the dangers migrants face in trying to reach the American border. A group called Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which has been organizing caravans since 2008, was behind the group that caught the attention of Trump and other Republicans in March. Trump eventually signed a proclamation to send the National Guard to the border.
What makes the latest venture unique is its apparent spontaneity.
“It appears to have gone viral,” said Maureen Meyer, the director for Mexico and migrant rights at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human-rights advocacy organization. “People who had thought about it then decided this is the time to do it. I don’t think anyone had expected this very unprecedented number of people to be able to travel and gather together so quickly.” In response, Defense Secretary James Mattis is reportedly expecting to send 800 more National Guard troops to the border, where they’d assist Customs and Border Patrol but wouldn’t be involved in migrant apprehension.