To be clear, the roughly 5,000 men, women, and children making the northward trek, by foot, from the Central American isthmus upward through Mexico and into the US are asylum seekers, not “migrants.”
The difference is meaningful, and there are grave human rights implications in the repeated misuse of language to describe their predicament.
For the sake of everyone following along at home, a quick vocab refresher!
Migrants are temporary, itinerant travelers who move between countries for (usually) work. The term “migrant workers” is actually kind of redundant; when correctly using “migrant” to describe a person regularly crossing back and forth over borders, it’s implicit that they’re a “worker.”
Over the past decade, it’s become a point of accepted political conversation that a majority of Central Americans entering the United States are “migrants.”
That word has been repeated in journalistic coverage over a course of years and across political administrations. It was eventually adopted by aid groups and NGOs as shorthand for the complex, decades-long political reality that formed these immigrants’ tragic circumstance — that is, the reason they’re fleeing en masse. But, well-meaning as intentions may have been, that terminology condenses their lived reality into a rhetorically misleading catchphrase that, by this point, has taken on a double entendre of xenophobic threat: “the Central American migrant crisis.”