Apr 19, 2019

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.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 857,487 — Total deaths: 42,107 — Total recoveries: 178,034.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 188,172 — Total deaths: 3,873 — Total recoveries: 7,024.
  3. Business updates: Should you pay your rent or mortgage during the coronavirus pandemic? Find out if you are protected under the CARES Act.
  4. Public health updates: More than 400 long-term care facilities across the U.S. report patients with coronavirus — Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more at risk, new data shows.
  5. Federal government latest: President Trump said the next two weeks would be "very painful," with projections indicating the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans.
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Captain of nuclear aircraft carrier docked in Guam pleaded with the U.S. Navy for more resources after more than 100 members of his crew tested positive.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

World coronavirus updates: UN warns of recession with "no parallel" to recent past

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test" the world has faced together since the formation of the United Nations just after the Second World War ended in 1945, UN chief António Guterres said Tuesday.

The big picture: COVID-19 cases surged past 856,000 and the death toll exceeded 42,000 Tuesday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy reported more than 12,000 deaths.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Health

White House projects 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths

President Trump said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the next two weeks in the U.S. will be "very painful" and that he wants "every American to be prepared for the days that lie ahead," before giving way to Deborah Birx to explain the models informing the White House's new guidance on the coronavirus.

Why it matters: It's a somber new tone from the president that comes after his medical advisers showed him data projecting that the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health