Anyone who expected a quick and easy solution to the immigrant caravan at the southern U.S. border is in for a big disappointment. Like the bigger issue of comprehensive immigration reform, there is no simple solution to address the thousands of Central Americans congregating primarily in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.
Seeking to stoke fears ahead of the Nov. 6 elections, President Donald Trump labeled the caravan as an "invasion" and declared it worthy of a crisis response back when the group was still hundreds of miles away. He ordered 5,900 U.S. troops to the border region, only to start withdrawing them just as the caravan was reaching the border.
Those troops played no apparent role in fending off Sunday's mass attempt to storm the border at Tijuana. U.S. and Mexican law enforcers handled the challenge with relative ease, and no injuries were reported despite their use of tear gas and pepper spray to keep crowds under control. That's their job, and because the migrants — including a few rock-throwers — posed no military threat, there never was a need to deploy U.S. troops.
That's not to imply, however, that the caravan isn't a problem. It's a big problem. The Trump administration is well within its right to negotiate with Mexico to make the entry and asylum-seeking process as orderly as possible. The best way to ensure Mexico's cooperation is to keep the political rhetoric to a minimum. For migrants, throwing rocks and storming the border is the worst way to make a persuasive case for asylum.
Mexico, which has largely been sympathetic to caravan participants, has threatened instigators of Sunday's border-storming attempt with deportation. So Trump is hardly alone in his demands for an orderly process. Did U.S. and Mexican border authorities overreact when the crowd tried to break through? No. If anything, they were restrained in their response.
The migrants in Tijuana are almost certainly bored and frustrated after having traveled more than 2,000 miles to reach this point. The main question, however, is whether they are being properly fed and are safe from the dangers that, they say, prompted them to flee their home countries. Volunteer organizations in Mexico are helping the group cope with the day-to-day challenges of survival.
The migrants have been waiting at the border only a few days. Thousands of asylum seekers from Syria and other war zones have waited months or years in squalid U.N. refugee camps while awaiting word on their asylum applications.
Everyone must wait his or her turn. Just because their journey received high-profile media attention does not automatically push them to the top of the list. Nor does the fact that Trump is commander in chief automatically make the government wrong for securing the nation's border.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH