Apr 19, 2019 - Politics & Policy

How social media fuels migrant caravans

Central American migrants moving in a caravan to the U.S. board buses. Photo: Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images

Central American migrants have newfound empowerment to organize and flee their home countries in large groups, with instant communication to guide their long journeys.

Why it matters: Those caravans provide the protection of numbers and eliminate many of the dangers and costs associated with hiring smugglers.

  • And they've become a popular and strategically orchestrated method of migration for Central Americans in search of safety or a better life in the U.S. — a phenomenon spurred by social media, the AP reports.

Between the lines: The "caravans" began primarily as protests a few years ago. Very few members of the original caravans actually made it to the U.S. border.

  • But last fall — amid the Trump administration's ongoing immigration crackdown — hundreds of Central Americans actually arrived at the U.S. border.
  • Ever since, smaller "caravans" have been setting off from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
  • Social media is the engine: They are often advertised on Facebook and organized through WhatsApp group chats, the AP reports, where migrants make plans, give advice and communicate with loved ones. It's unclear who — if ever the same people — head up the operation.

A look inside a caravan WhatsApp chat, as reported by the AP:

  • "Group, in Mexico can you find someone to take you to the other side?"
  • "What papers do I need for my kids?"
  • "Remember that in Mexico there are a lot of kidnappings.”
  • "This dude works with the Zetas, a friend of mine from Olancho told me he knows him and that he’s still with them." Sent with a photo of an alleged criminal.
  • "There are no coordinators, that’s what people have to say so there aren’t problems."
  • "Another is leaving April 30, Salvadoran friends."

The bottom line: Social media continues to transform our world — mobilizing anti-government uprisings, a new brand of celebrity, fake news and even effective, new methods of mass migration.

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