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The Immigrant Caravan: A Dilemma of American Values

Over two weeks ago, a caravan with over 3,500 Hondurans left their homes to enter the United States by crossing three borders. Desperate migrants overran helpless security forces in two borders with sheer numbers. Many more have joined the caravan on the way and the size of it is increasing day by day as they steadily move closer to the US. The President has strongly condemned the onslaught of immigrants and assertively stated, “They’re not coming in. We’re going to do whatever we have to; they’re not coming in.” In the oval office, President Trump even suggested the possible deployment of American troops in the border. This is not a simple immigration issue, but rather a conflict of two values that have been embedded in American morals since its establishment.

One of the values that support the acceptance of the caravan is the American value of accepting immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. After all, the US is a nation of immigrants. Although the US has recently been implementing more protectionist policies, it should be in fact a nation that welcomes those who seek a new beginning. A place where a person can turn nothing into something: a place where “The American Dream” happens. Since the founding of the country, people from every corner of the world have fled wars, natural disasters, or other conflicts in their nation and sought refuge, as well as a better future in the US. Those who advocate for accepting the caravan into the nation argue that by not accepting the caravan, the government is going against the ideals and morals that the US stood for since the beginning of the nation.

While the US is the land of the free, it is also the land of law and order. Many, including the President, argue that by accepting the caravan, the US will condone the illegal entrance of immigrants, and will set a precedent of allowing a massive number of illegal immigrants to enter the nation, possibly weakening the government’s position against illegal immigration in the future. In addition, according to the state department, there are over 5 million people waiting to enter the US legally, so would it be fair to accept the caravan ahead of those who seek to enter the US by going through necessary background checks and procedures? Many argue that allowing them to cross the border without any background checks may pose a serious security threat to the nation and infringes the concept of equality.

Migrants waiting to board buses headed for the US border in La Concha, Mexico, Nov. 14, 2018. AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

As the caravan gets closer to the US day by day, the issue is becoming more and more partisan. The Democratic party leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, have stated that this entire issue is the President’s attempt to shift the focus of the people from the health care to immigration and to simply ignore the entire issue of the Caravan. However, there is a problem to this approach: immigration should not be an issue that is ignored as it is an immense issue that many Americans have a personal connection to. The Democrats usually seek for a more lenient approach on illegal immigrants, as seen in policies such as former President Obama’s “Dreamer Act”. However, in regards to this issue of Caravans, they seem aloof as they have not proposed any solutions and often avoided discussing the entire issue. Perhaps this is due to upcoming midterm election as they cannot seem weak on illegal immigration in front of the eyes of Americans while also having to stay true to their values. In contrast, President Trump, along with his fellow Republicans has taken a much harder stance on this issue, as they have threatened to deploy troops in the US-Mexico border and have cut financial aids to Central American nations for failing to stop the caravan. While this issue is mostly about immigration, the stark contrast of the approach between two parties also displays the current political landscape of the US. A polarizing situation between two parties where no one can compromise.

Since 1776, the US has held distinct values that made the nation what it is. The American value of the pursuit of happiness is what made them a nation founded upon immigrants. Their value of law and order has established a judicial system that even the president is not exempted from. As the caravan draws closer, Americans must question which values will prevail or find a way to satisfy both values.