In a broad-brimmed straw hat and an airy linen shirt, Oscar Cruz Lopez, the municipal secretary of Juchitan, Oaxaca, surveyed the crowds at the city’s new bus station. Before him sprawled about 6,000 people who had spent the night on the grounds. As church members served chicken stew on paper plates, taxi drivers circled the bus station, offering rides into the center of town for 15 pesos (about 75 cents). Nuns in white habits bandaged the battered feet of exhausted men and women. The Central American migrant caravan—the group of undocumented people whose journey northward briefly riveted the U.S. media—had arrived.
In the weeks before the midterm election, President Donald Trump made the case that this group of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants and asylum-seekers constituted a grave national security threat—an “invasion” force of criminals, terrorists, and unspecified “Middle Eastern” people. Trump ordered 5,000 active-duty troops to the border in a mission dubbed “Operation Faithful Patriot,” promising to triple that figure if necessary. Immediately after the election, conservative media coverage of the caravan vanished, “Faithful Patriot” was scrapped, and the menace posed by the band of migrants apparently evaporated.