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Caravan migrants confused over next move at Mexico-U.S. border

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.

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Members of a Central American migrant caravan that drew the wrath of President Donald Trump during its month-long journey through Mexico to the U.S. border faced hard choices on Sunday, as they decided whether to cross illegally into the United States, ask for asylum at the border or try to remain in Mexico.
Mexico-US border, wikimedia commons

Members of a Central American migrant caravan that drew the wrath of President Donald Trump during its month-long journey through Mexico to the U.S. border faced hard choices on Sunday, as they decided whether to cross illegally into the United States, ask for asylum at the border or try to remain in Mexico.

U.S. border authorities said Saturday that some people associated with the caravan had already been caught trying to slip through the fence and encouraged the rest to hand themselves in to authorities.

“We are a very welcoming country but just like your own house, we expect everyone to enter through our front door, and answer questions honestly,” San Diego Chief Patrol Agent Rodney S. Scott said in a statement.

Many of the migrants who spoke at length with Reuters at various points during their trip through Mexico recounted detailed stories of facing death threats.
Donald Trump, wikimedia commons

The group of about 400 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador arrived in border city Tijuana on buses over the past couple of days, and most of them said Saturday they intended to legally seek asylum in San Diego on Sunday.

“I feel a little cold, I feel anxious,” said Jaime Alexander from El Salvador in the morning, shaking slightly. Later he and some other migrants will go to the border and attempt to request U.S. asylum. U.S. authorities have advised that there may be delays in their ability to process the migrants and that some “may need to wait in Mexico as [border officials] work to process those already within our facilities.”

A security guard back home, Alexander said he fled after a death threat. His feet are still swollen from days of walking as the group made its way to the border.

Legal advice

Lawyers advising the group warned the migrants on Saturday that not everyone will be successful. Asylum seekers must demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution at home and the overwhelming majority of those from Central America are denied refuge in the United States. Those denied asylum are generally deported to their home countries.

After the grueling journey, a somber mood took hold in Tijuana over the weekend as migrants faced an uncertain future in which they are likely to be detained and separated from friends and family.

“To anyone that is associated with this caravan, Think Before You Act,” Scott’s statement said, vowing to prosecute migrants entering the country illegally. “If anyone has encouraged you to illegally enter the United States, or make any false statements to U.S. government officials, they are giving you bad advice and they are placing you and your family at risk.”

At venues around Tijuana, volunteer U.S. immigration lawyers on Saturday listened to harrowing tales of life in the immigrants’ home countries.

Death threats from local gangs, the murder of family members, retaliatory rape, and political persecution back home prompted them to flee, the migrants told the lawyers.

Many of the migrants who spoke at length with Reuters at various points during their trip through Mexico recounted detailed stories of facing death threats.

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.
Representational Image, wikimedia commons

‘Credible fear’ test

The lawyers advised which cases had a better chance of passing the “credible fear” test required to enter the long and often difficult U.S. asylum process, said immigrant rights organization Al Otro Lado, Spanish for On the Other Side.

Migrants without strong asylum cases were advised to remain in Mexico, although the Mexican government has not said whether it will allow them to stay.

“We’ll wait and see,” said Bryan Garcia, from Honduras, seated beside the four-year-old daughter of his new girlfriend as they waited for her mother to come out of a meeting with a lawyer.

Nicole and her mother are from El Salvador. They befriended Garcia along the caravan’s journey.

Garcia said he would not ask for asylum but would stay in Tijuana, having already been deported once from the U.S.

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“We’ll just have to try to stay connected,” he said as Nicole paused from eating her biscuit and blinked up at him.

Trump pressured Mexico to stop the migrants before they reached the border, linking the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Mexican efforts to stem the flow of Central Americans.

The friction has coincided with high intensity efforts by U.S., Canadian and Mexican teams to renegotiate NAFTA at Trump’s bidding. Negotiators trying to hammer out a NAFTA deal said on Friday they will take a break until May 7.

Mexico deports tens of thousands of Central Americans every year back across its southern border with Guatemala. (VOA)

 

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“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

Donald Trump
“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)