La Meta Es Seguir Adelante (The Goal Is To Keep Going)
For many of the migrants who made the perilous journey north through Mexico as part of the 2017-2019 migrant caravans, reaching the southern United States border would prove to be just one of countless challenges they’d face in their search for safety and survival. After their arrival, both the U.S. and Mexican governments would spend the following years attacking and criminalizing migrants in an attempt to stop migration through Mexico.
In fact, many of the subsequent changes to asylum laws and immigration policies were implemented on the heels of the caravans of 2018.
While former President Donald Trump repeatedly riled up his right-wing fanbase with tweets about “invasions” at the southern border, his administration unleashed a barrage of anti-immigrant policies intended to stoke fear in the migrant community. Some of the first families separated under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “Zero Tolerance” policy were members of the 2018 caravans. The first asylum seekers returned to Mexico in January 2019 under the newly implemented “Remain in Mexico” policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, were also members of these caravans.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, the newly formed National Guard made its debut in 2019 by detaining and tear-gassing migrants entering the country by crossing the Suchiate River. Even as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denies that human rights violations occur in Mexico, corrupt government officials with connections to organized crime have been found guilty of extortion and kidnapping migrants in dangerous border towns like Reynosa.
In November 2020, migrants who had arrived in Tijuana with the caravans were being told that their humanitarian visas would no longer be renewed. The reason: The caravan no longer existed.
Since 2018, “the caravan” has become synonymous with migration from Central America despite the fact that those who traveled in caravans only account for a small fraction of the thousands who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. Multiple governments have used the singularity of “the caravan” to attack entire communities, to point the finger and place blame and to obscure the thousands of faces and individual stories of survival, resistance, hope and joy that make up these caravans.
In the fall of 2020, two years after the largest migrant caravan in recent years, sometimes referred to as “El Éxodo (or the Exodus), I sat down with individuals who participated in various migrant caravans to hear firsthand what life has been like since resettling in Tijuana, Mexico, and for others, in the United States.
In these interviews, they shared their experiences and discuss everything from the need for organizing inside detention centers in the U.S. to being targeted, criminalized and deported from Mexico back to Honduras. They also spoke of the importance of writing and receiving letters while in detention, and about surviving a pandemic in a country that provides little to no support for migrants. Despite the myriad challenges and accomplishments in each of their stories, one thing remained the same: la meta es seguir adelante (the goal is to keep going).