Migrant Caravan Organizers Could Face Criminal Charges: Former DOJ Prosecutor

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
October 25, 2018US News

The organizers and financiers behind the migrant caravan currently headed to the United States could face legal charges, a former Department of Justice prosecutor said.

“If they are organizing and financing and trying to encourage people to cross illegally, to cross outside the points of entry, it’s at least arguable that there is alien smuggling and racketeering charges that could be investigated,” James Trusty said in an interview on Fox News.

Trusty said it would take a lot of investigation, though, to procure charges.

“There’s a lot of practical difficulties with that, a lot of factual underpinnings that we don’t know at this point, but that’s at least an option,” he added. “Actually proving up that they are encouraging false entry as opposed to entries at a point where they are lawfully turning themselves in and seeking asylum is definitely going to be a problem there.”

Tom Homan, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said later on Laura Ingraham’s show that anyone assisting the caravan “is absolutely aiding and abetting and helping people make an illegal entry.”

migrant caravan heads north
Honduran migrants, part of a caravan trying to reach the United States, gesture while arriving at the border between Honduras and Guatemala, in Agua Caliente, Guatemala, on Oct. 15, 2018. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)

“That is a violation of United States code 1324, which is alien smuggling,” he added. “It’s a felony. So HSI [Homeland Security Investigations] needs to work with the partners in Mexico, identify these people and prosecute.”

The code states that it’s an offense for a person to bring or attempt to bring an illegal alien to a place other than a designated port of entry.

Several people have been identified as helping to organize and fund the caravan, including radio host and former Honduran lawmaker Bartolo Fuentes.

He was arrested on Oct. 16 from the middle of a large crowd that he helped organize and lead from Honduras to Guatemala by Guatemalan police officers, reported Reuters. The Honduran security ministry said Fuentes had been detained because he “did not comply with Guatemalan immigration rules.”

NTD Photo
Central American migrants traveling with a caravan towards the United States walk holding national flags from Mexico and Honduras, as they make their way to Mapastepec, Mexico, on Oct. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

Irineo Mujica, an immigration activist from Phoenix with dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship, was arrested in Mexico on Oct. 18 on charges of property damage and resisting arrest. Mujica, an organizer with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, the group that helped organize the caravan last spring.

Alex Mensing, another organizer with Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told the Arizona Republic that Mujica “was not involved in organizing the beginnings of the [current] caravan,” claiming he was only with them to help coordinate humanitarian assistance.

No arrests or prosecution related to the caravan appears to have happened in the United States as of yet, and it wasn’t clear if American officials assisted with the cases against Fuentes and Mujica.

According to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Honduran President Juan Hernández said that the caravan was organized by leftist organizations and financed by Venezuela when they met for talks on Oct. 23.

Asylum Standards

Another guest on the Fox News show, immigration attorney Eileen Blessinger, noted that the requirements for claiming asylum are high.

For instance, being a victim or a potential victim of gang violence doesn’t necessarily qualify someone for asylum.

“The way you qualify for asylum is showing them someone is going to harm you for something you can’t change or shouldn’t have to change,” she said, noting most of the migrants she speaks to at the border say they’re migrating for political reasons.

“People can’t just come here and say, I want asylum. They have to actually pass what you call the credible fear process and interview with an asylum officer that’s going to show that there is at least a possibility of winning an asylum claim,” she said.

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