Border wall facing north in Playas, Tijuana, Mexico.

Did ‘Migrants’ Demand $50,000 Each to Leave the United States?

On December 12, 2018, the Federalist Papers Project — a known purveyor of corrosive disinformation — published “Migrants DEMAND $50,000 Each to go Home, Or Else …” (filed under “opinion”), an article littered with racist imagery and calls for violence:
If you needed any more proof that the migrant caravans at our Southern border are NOT what they appear to be, now these invaders are making a new demand. Now these “migrants” are saying “give us $50,000 each to return home, or else we’ll bust down your border,” as Fox News reports: Two groups of Central American migrants marched to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana on Tuesday with a list of demands, with one group delivering an ultimatum to the Trump administration: either let them in the U.S. or pay them $50,000 each to go home, a report said. Among other demands were that deportations be halted and that asylum seekers be processed faster and in greater numbers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Now the solution is clear. Protect our border with deadly force, force these folks back home without a penny.
We found it difficult to understand how the writer of this piece felt that members of a migrant caravan at a consulate outside the borders of the United States was terrifying enough to merit deadly force at the international border, particularly since they were specifically requesting a desire to either be processed by border offers or to return to their home countries. Setting that aside, the story referenced (but did not link to) a story from Fox News, which reported on December 12, 2018:
Two groups of Central American migrants marched to the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana on [December 11, 2018] with a list of demands, with one group delivering an ultimatum to the Trump administration: either let them in the U.S. or pay them $50,000 each to go home, a report said. Among other demands were that deportations be halted and that asylum seekers be processed faster and in greater numbers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The first group of caravan members, which included about 100 migrants, arrived at the consulate around 11 a.m. Alfonso Guerreo Ulloa, an organizer from Honduras, said the $50,000 figure was chosen as a group.
The Federalist Papers blog post appeared to be at least twice removed from its source material. Fox News referenced a December 11, 2018 article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, which reported:
Two groups of Central American migrants made separate marches on the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana [on December 11 2018], demanding that they be processed through the asylum system more quickly and in greater numbers, that deportations be halted and that President Trump either let them into the country or pay them $50,000 each to go home. … The first group demanding action, numbering about 100, arrived at the U.S. Consulate at about 11 am [on December 11 2018]. The migrants said they were asking that the Trump Administration pay them $50,000 each or allow them into the U.S. When asked how the group came up with the $50,000 figure, organizer Alfonso Guerrero Ulloa of Honduras, said they chose that number as a group … The group’s letter criticized American intervention in Central America. They gave the U.S. Consulate 72 hours to respond.
While Ulloa is originally from Honduras, he received asylum from Mexico in 1987 and has not returned to his home country since, and is thus not part of any caravan from Central America that arrived in 2018 and on whose behalf he is advocating:

Mexico has granted permanent asylum in its embassy here to a man suspected of planting a bomb that exploded in a Chinese restaurant in August, slightly wounding six United States soldiers and a Honduran civilian.


Mexican diplomats called the man, Alfonso Guerrero Ulloa, 22 years old, a ”freedom fighter” whose life was at risk because of his political views. They said he had a right to asylum and was welcome to stay.

The Mexican Government’s decision is the latest twist in a case marked by strange turns. Mr. Guerrero was first implicated by a Felix Fernando Castro Martinez, who confessed to taking part in the bombing. But he later retracted his confession, charging that the military had tortured him.

Ulloa has since taken up the caravan’s cause, and appears to have his sights set not on the United States, but on Honduras:
His quiet life changed on Nov. 4, when he joined a caravan of Central Americans migrants heading north to the United States. He caught up with the group in Córdoba, about 180 miles southeast of Mexico City. “It’s a joy to be able to serve my country again,” Guerrero said from the El Barretal migrant shelter in Tijuana. “Sleeping here in the cold, eating what everyone else is eating, brings me joy.” Guerrero said he joined the caravan after seeing it on the news. He wanted to help and spread his political message opposing Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez. As soon as he joined the caravan, Guerrero clashed with organizers who wanted to keep politics out of what they described as a humanitarian movement. But Guerrero persisted. He says a small group of migrants joined his cause and the group slowly grew over time. Guerrero sees the migrants’ flight out of Honduras as part of a larger movement. He says rampant crime, poverty and corruption are all linked to politics. In an interview, he repeatedly said the migrants’ goal is to “liberate Honduras.
According to reports, two unrelated groups of Central Americans — who are living in shelters and camps in Tijuana as they wait for a long and unexpected backlog of asylum requests to be processed — sought different courses of actions. Ulloa’s group (of approximately a hundred people) requested that its members be processed for asylum in a timely fashion, or for $50,000 for each of its members in lieu of that. The reason the group agreed on that figure is not for ransom, as is heavily implied by the Federalist Papers blog and others, but as reparations for the United States’ largely unexamined role in a 2009 coup in Honduras that so destabilized the country (after it had already spent decades directly interfering in its politics) that it created an enormous diaspora as people fled to safety and to find work:
The 2009 coup, more than any other development, explains the increase in Honduran migration across the southern U.S. border in the last few years. The Obama administration has played an important role in these developments. Although it officially decried Zelaya’s ouster, it equivocated on whether or not it constituted a coup, which would have required the U.S. to stop sending most aid to the country. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in particular, sent conflicting messages, and worked to ensure that Zelaya did not return to power. This was contrary to the wishes of the Organization of American States, the leading hemispheric political forum composed of the 35 member-countries of the Americas, including the Caribbean. Several months after the coup, Clinton supported a highly questionable election aimed at legitimating the post-coup government. Since the coup, writes historian Dana Frank, “a series of corrupt administrations has unleashed open criminal control of Honduras, from top to bottom of the government.” The Trump administration’s recognition, in December 2017, of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s re-election — after a process marked by deep irregularities, fraud and violence. This continues Washington’s longstanding willingness to overlook official corruption in Honduras as long as the country’s ruling elites serve what are defined as U.S. economic and geopolitical interests.
A second group of about fifty people, unaffiliated with the first, also sent a letter that referenced a “slow pace” of asylum processes, and again referenced a refugee crisis, “caused in great part by decades of U.S. intervention in Central America”:
The second letter, delivered [the same afternoon], came from a separate group of caravan members asking for the U.S. to speed up the asylum process. Specifically, the group asked U.S. immigration officials to admit up to 300 asylum seekers at the San Ysidro Port of Entry each day. Currently, officials admit between 40 and 100 asylum seekers. The group of migrants say the slow pace violates American and international laws that call for an immediate process, and places vulnerable migrants at risk.
The stated goal of these two groups is to draw attention to the myriad issues around the caravan (such as root causes of instability in Central American countries and the backlog processing asylum claims at the border in Tijuana due to inaction by the Trump administration) and perhaps benefit from that attention in their own ways — but they are seeking to enter the United States as asylees, not threaten it.