As the migrant caravan that started in Honduras with only 150 people trudges north through Mexico with numbers swelling to over 7,000 now, the Trump administration continues to levy threats but has yet to determine an actual course of action for how to deal with the caravan’s impending arrival at the U.S.-Mexico border. Top immigration officials and Trump’s advisers are considering various options on how to deal with the situation should Mexican federal police agents be unable to stop the caravan’s progress north, according to CBS.
The closed-door crisis meetings have become increasingly heated over the past couple of days, occasionally devolving into shouting matches between top officials, also per CBS. While President Trump has taken an unmistakably hardline stance against the migrants, tweeting out on Wednesday that the U.S. will maintain strong borders and never tolerate illegal immigration, top immigration officials have been unable to support that stance due to a number of extenuating circumstances.
We are a great Sovereign Nation. We have Strong Borders and will never accept people coming into our Country illegally!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
Disagreements between members of President Trump’s leadership teams came to a head last week, ending with a heated shouting match between White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton that was well-publicized. The argument stemmed from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s suggestion that the United States consult the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, a position that rankled Bolton, who favors more immediate options and has a noted lack of confidence in the U.N.
While stymied in their quest for a legitimate plan for dealing with the caravan’s arrival, the Trump administration has capitalized on using the situation as a talking point for the upcoming midterm elections, using it as a hot-button topic to try to motive Republican support in the election. President Trump has sought to frame the migrant caravan as a response to Democratic immigration policies, while White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her statement about the Kelly-Bolton spat, said “While we are passionate about solving the issue of illegal immigration, we are not angry at one another. However, we are furious about the failure of Congressional Democrats to help us address this growing crisis.”
Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2018
Political rhetoric aside, the Trump administration is nearly in crisis management, citing loopholes in immigration law and their inability to quickly deport illegal immigrants as primary roadblocks to their ability to formulate a comprehensive solution. The administration’s earlier efforts to adopt a hardline stance against illegal immigration through a series of executive orders and regulatory changes have largely been unsuccessful as the court system has largely rejected those efforts in conjunction with a global outcry against the brutality of some of the administration’s border policies, particularly the separation and imprisonment of immigrant families.
President Trump has tried to drum up support for a hardline solution to the caravan problem by raising fears that Middle Eastern terrorists would gain entry to the United States by implanting themselves within the caravan. He later had to admit that the claim was unfounded.
“They could very well be,” President Trump said. “There’s no proof of anything. But there could very well be.”
While no clear strategy for dealing with the migrant caravan’s arrival has yet emerged, the administration is likely to adopt one of two stances: either stifle the caravan with sluggish bureaucracy (a strategy that did not work for the Mexican government) or adopt a hardline strategy that will likely be challenged in the U.S. court system. Either choice seems likely to end in failure unless the administration can find another solution and implement it in time before the caravan reaches the border.