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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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Economy to Overcome Other Issues in 2020, says Trump

President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger. 

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President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a Keep America Great Rally at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S. VOA

“It’s the economy, stupid” has been a catchphrase of U.S. presidential politics since the 1992 campaign, when Bill Clinton unseated incumbent George H.W. Bush. Nearly three decades later, U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping that simple message in 2020 will help foil his eventual Democratic Party challenger.

Trump — in tweets, at political rallies and in remarks to reporters — constantly emphasizes the performance of the U.S. economy, stock market surges, low unemployment rates and his tax cuts to boast he is doing a great job as president.

Economists and political analysts are divided on whether that message will enable the incumbent to stay in office beyond January 2021.

Culture war, partisan split

Ever since Clinton, “we’ve all kind of assumed that should be true. And I think for the most part, it is,” said Ryan McMaken, senior editor and economist at the Mises Institute, a politics and economics research group in Alabama. He cautioned, though, that Trump finds himself on one side of a culture war that his predecessors did not have to confront, as well as a deep partisan divide on consumer confidence.

Walmart Supercentre
Balo Balogun labels items in preparation for a holiday sale at a Walmart Supercenter, in Las Vegas. Black Friday once again kicks off the start of the holiday shopping season. But it will be the shortest season since 2013 because of Thanksgiving falling on the fourth Thursday in November, the latest possible date it can be. VOA

Policy analyst James Pethokoukis at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a public policy research group, also is cautious about the economy prevailing over all other issues.

“Just having a strong economy is not going to guarantee you re-election,” he said. “People often point back to the 2000 election, which occurred after a decade of tremendous economic growth any way you want to measure it — gross domestic product, jobs and wage growth. And yet, [Clinton’s vice president] Al Gore still lost that election to George W. Bush.”

McMaken questioned whether voters in key swing states — such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio — who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 were experiencing enough of the touted economic performance to vote again for the president.

Overall, however, “it’s not a bad economy to run on if you’re Donald Trump,” said Pethokoukis.

Trump, said to have concerns about the direction of the economy ahead of next November’s election, will likely push for more tax cuts, passage of a renegotiated North American trade pact and continued pressure on the country’s central banking system, the Federal Reserve, to lower interest rates.

A LB Steel LLC's employee manufactures a component
A LB Steel LLC’s employee manufactures a component for new Amtrak Acela trains built in partnership with Alstom in Harvey, Illinois, U.S. VOA

Trouble ahead?

There are rumblings of economic storm clouds on the horizon. The impact can be seen in Trump’s trade war with China, which has hurt U.S. farmers and raised prices for consumer goods. It’s also reflected in the Institute for Supply Management’s Manufacturing Index, an underperforming U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index and a ballooning record national debt, in addition to the worrying level of money owed to creditors by middle-class Americans.

“We’ve actually been in a sort of a manufacturing recession, seen a shrinkage of factory jobs, the exact kinds of jobs that I’m sure that people voting for the president thought would be a lot better now,” said Pethokoukis.

So far, none of this has prompted a major stock market correction.

“There seems to be a lot of adaptations in the markets to Trump’s America. That may work to his advantage,” said the Mises Institute’s McMaken.

Analysts note a lack of emphasis on economic platforms so far by the leading Democratic U.S. presidential candidates seeking to oust Trump next year.

But such a platform is likely to be touted when the opposition party holds its convention next July in Milwaukee and picks its campaign ticket. Pethokoukis suggested the Democratic Party should devise a plan with a goal to boost American worker productivity, which has flatlined for years.

The great divide

McMaken pointed out that the widening chasm between the well-off and those struggling economically in the United States makes Trump vulnerable — something emphasized by left-leaning Democratic presidential contenders such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Donald Trump says the economy isn't doing well
Tents and tarps erected by homeless people are shown along sidewalks and streets in the skid row area of downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S. VOA

“On the ground level, I would say just in general, the economy isn’t doing as well,” concluded McMaken.

ALSO READ: Greed For Power May Demolish The Democracy

Amid an impeachment drive by the Democrats, Trump is repeatedly hammering on a specific message to those questioning his suitability for office while being impressed with the performance of their pension accounts during his presidency.

“Love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me,” Trump said at a rally in New Hampshire in August, warning that Americans’ investments portfolios would go “down the tubes” if he lost next year’s election. (VOA)