The fact that this president has been so obsessed with immigrants and immigration as a key component of his message, from the day he announced his desire to become president of the U.S. in 2015, should not make any one of us surprised that he’s using the caravan, essentially, to further advance his well-established line against immigrants by demonizing them, by dehumanizing them.

… we should not be surprised—if I regret one thing, it’s that there is no strong counter-narrative from the Democratic Party about an event like this caravan or migration altogether. And I believe that that’s a flaw that we need to deal with and find a way of fixing in the U.S.

Oscar Chacon of Alianza Americas on Democracy NOW, October 23

he madness of the day is this: thousands of peaceful migrants are headed toward the US to seek humanitarian asylum and the US president reacts by inciting panic, rage, and hate. The president warns hysterically of a “national emergency” as his deceitful ranting works like a self-fulfilling prophecy, stoking a real emergency from the fevered imaginings of his soul-deep bigotry.

The migrant caravan has been demonstrably peaceful. Mexicans along the caravan route provide food, water, and support. The caravan is estimated at 7,000 people of all ages, mostly whole families. No one has even tried to make an accurate count, but it’s reasonable to believe most of the migrants are fleeing from Honduras.

Honduras presents another face of the present madness, but a much older, bipartisan, imperial face. The US has been kicking Honduras around since before the US government in Honduras was just an extension of the foreign policy of the United Fruit Company. The current state of Honduras as a country that terrorizes its own population dates from the Reagan presidency, when ambassador Negroponte was running Salvadoran death squads out of Tegucigalpa. There followed a brief and uneasy Honduran flirtation with democratic government and an excess of national independence that came to an abrupt end in a military coup. Satisfied with that outcome, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton officially certified that no coup had taken place (wink wink), and that the US would continue helping the Honduran government to militarize itself, a policy that continues today. The US is happy with the state of affairs, but Hondurans by the thousands can’t find a safe and decent way to live there, so they head north, much to the annoyance of our el Presidente, who, in a remarkably obtuse response, threatens to cut off US military aid to Honduras.

However demagogic politicians may misrepresent this caravan, it has literally nothing to do with illegal immigration. The president falsely claims the people in the caravan are trying to come into the US illegally. They are not. These are asylum seekers. They have standing under international law to seek asylum in another country. The irony is that they’re seeking asylum in the country most responsible for creating the conditions that drove them from their homes.

A sensible leader with a human concern for other human beings might have seen something like this coming, since it’s been happening more or less twice a year for decades. To be fair, the current caravan is one of the larger ones, but still not the largest ever. But the US doesn’t act in good faith when it comes to immigration. The US has a legal obligation to process claims for asylum fairly and promptly. Instead, the US uses force to keep migrants in Mexico, leaves them exposed at border crossings for days, understaffs asylum courts whose backlogs are out of control, and kidnaps children from their parents in a thuggish attempt at deterrence. Now the US president is threatening to meet peaceful asylum seekers at the border with military force. And he’s lying about the migrants, providing no evidence to support his lies:

Go into the middle of the caravan, take your cameras and search. OK? … You’re going to find MS-13. You’re going to find Middle Eastern. You’re going to find everything. And guess what. We’re not allowing them in our country. We want safety. We want safety.

And more of the same demagoguery with no support in fact at another campaign performance, where he refers to a caravan that is more than 1,000 miles from the US border, where it might arrive in late November or much later:

That is an assault on our country and in that caravan you have some very bad people and we can’t let that happen to our country…. I think the Democrats had something to do with it.  

The president’s rhetoric is of a piece with official Republican bigotry in defense of white people. His surrogates accuse George Soros of funding the caravan, of course. Examples of hate speech abound at the state and local level, wherever there are Republicans running scared. The two Republicans indicted for corruption, Chris Collins of New York and Duncan Hunter of California, have made especially racist appeals to get re-elected. And when they’re not overtly bigoted, Republicans are busy lying about policies no Democrat supports (open borders, more crime). When called out for their dishonest tactics they whine about civility.

Legitimate coverage of the caravan reveals no gang members, no Islamic terrorists, no violent people at all. Oh yeah, what about the internet coverage of those “Mexican Police Officers Brutalized by Members of a Migrant Caravan?” It’s a lie peddled by people on Facebook and Twitter without reliable sourcing. Turns out the police were brutalized several years ago (2011, 2012, 2014), but by Mexican students and teachers, not by any immigrants in any caravan (as documented by Snopes). The false meme purveyors are presumably the Republican equivalent of Russian bots. One of those spreading this garbage online was Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

In Mexico, official treatment of the caravan is civil and helpful. Popular response has been mixed, but mostly sympathetic along the caravan route. One Mexican along the route, Ana Gamboa, offered a more sensitive, textured response than anything we’ve heard from the US president:

The only thing I can say to people is that they should be more human, that we should look into our hearts and imagine ourselves in the migrants’ shoes, because it isn’t easy, what the migrants are doing. We Mexicans like to criticize Donald Trump for the way he treats Mexicans in the United States, and now we’re acting just like him. We don’t have any walls on our border, but sometimes we ourselves are the wall.

Americans are all too often swayed by fear of imaginary threats. The migrant caravan is an imaginary threat. It’s easy enough to find the facts about this caravan at this time. It’s probably easier to find the falsehoods and the lies, given the media megaphone attached to the presidential tweeter. Once more we’re at the perennial crisis of American democracy: whether enough voters will both learn the truth and vote on it.

Original at Reader Supported News: