By Maya Rhodan
April 2, 2018

President Donald Trump railed against immigrants, Mexico, and Democrats in a series of tweets on Sunday and Monday that suggested a caravan of immigrants reportedly traveling toward the U.S. are trying to take advantage of a program they would not qualify for.

At the White House Easter Egg roll on Monday, Trump told reporters: “The Democrats have really let them down. They really let them down. It’s a shame. A lot of people have taken advantage of DACA. It’s a shame,” according to a pool report.

Trump’s statements appear to have come after Fox News reported on a caravan of over 1,000 Central American migrants that is currently traveling through Mexico. The migrants’ trek was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

The 2018 caravan is being organized by a humanitarian volunteer group called Pueblos Sin Fronteras, or People Without Borders. The group organized two similar caravans in 2017 and has aided migrants and refugees on the move for over 15 years, according to its website. The group hopes that by traveling in such a large group they will be able to avoid some of the dangers that befell travelers who take the often perilous route through Mexico to the southern border of the United States.

Alex Mensing of Pueblos Sin Fronteras told ABC News that many of the caravan travelers are fleeing violence and that they are hoping to reach U.S. ports of entry in Arizona, California, or New Mexico where they will claim asylum and likely be detained.

But starting on Sunday morning, Trump unleashed a flurry of tweets about the caravans – and seemed to conflate the group with DACA. Here are the facts.

Trump blames “Catch & Release”

Trump first tweeted that “caravans” are heading toward the Southern U.S. border, but patrol agents “are not allowed to properly do their jobs.” Trump blamed that inability to work on “ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release.”

The majority of migrants traveling in the 2018 caravan are originally from Honduras, according to BuzzFeed, and many are fleeing the political unrest that followed the 2017 elections there. Some two-thirds of the migrants reportedly hoping to seek asylum when they reach the U.S.

During an appearance on Fox and Friends, the union chief of the National Border Patrol Council, Brandon Judd, suggested the “catch and release” policy was partly to blame. Under the policy, unlawful immigrants are released from detention while they await hearings in immigration court. Judd also said that immigrants can also be released if they claim asylum.

“Once they enter the country, even if we are standing at the border with our hands out saying, ‘Don’t enter, don’t enter,’ all they have to do is cross one foot into the border and we have to take them into custody,” he said. “If they ask for asylum or say I fear to go back to my country, then we have to process them under ‘credible fear’ which allows them to be released into our country.”

In a February 2017 memo, then Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the administration was ending “catch and release,” but a Reuters report from last June showed that it was easier said than done.

The Trump Administration’s attempt to end “Catch & Release” has been hampered by the reality that immigration authorities don’t have the space to hold every immigrant who is detained at the border, according to Reuters.

Mexico denies it “is doing very little” to stop illegal immigration

In tweets on Monday Trump blamed Mexico for allowing people to travel to the U.S., suggesting he would end the North American Free Trade Agreement in an effort to stem the flow of migrants.

The BuzzFeed report notes that “no one has made any effort to stop” the migrants as they travel through Mexico without authorization. About one third of the migrants traveling plan to stay in the country rather than continue on to the U.S.

Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, responded in a tweet on Sunday, saying that Mexican authorities work with their American counterparts on migration “every day.”

Caravan of immigrants not eligible for DACA

In his tweets, Trump also declared the end of a deal on DACA, a program that has protected young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents from deportation. Trump suggested that the immigrants who made up the caravan were coming to America in hopes of taking advantage of the program, which he effectively ended in September 2017. Efforts to offer DACA recipients permanent protections have stymied in Congress, in part due the to strict provisions Trump wants included in any deal. Trump has tried to shift the blame to Democrats, but it is not that simple.

It should be noted that the migrants who are traveling in the caravan, no matter their age, would not qualify for DACA.

The Trump administration stopped accepting new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, on Sept. 5, 2017. Under the president’s orders, renewal applications for people who already benefitted from the program needed to have been turned in by Oct. 5, 2017.

Legal challenges have kept the program alive, to an extent. The administration is still not accepting new applications, but people who have already benefitted from the program can reapply. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, all renewal requests will be adjudicated under the guidelines that were set forth when the program was first established.

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