SEATTLE — The migrant caravan that President Donald Trump has made a central campaign issue ahead of the midterm elections was also the focus of a campus conversation Monday night at the University of Washington's Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.
"The issue has been brought up at the level of rhetoric, but not discussed thoroughly at a level of deeper understanding," said Angelina Godoy, director for the Center for Human Rights at UW.
The panel featured testimonials from people with connections to Central America along with Jackson School faculty.
Thousands of Central American migrants have been on an arduous journey. Many are on foot while others travel in trucks and taxis. They briefly stop in places like stadiums and churches to rest and eat before getting back on the road. They are slowly trekking toward their goal of reaching the United States.
"They are fleeing above all, because they are afraid for their lives," said Godoy.
Trump has ordered thousands of troops to the southern border, and has insinuated that criminals are in the caravan.
"I think it is a show of force designed more to capture votes from frightened Americans than it is a solution to what's happening," Godoy said.
"It is not racist," Trump said in an interview with ABC 7 News. "It is just that people need to come into our country legally. Otherwise you don't have a country."
Monday night, it was standing room only as students crowded into a panel discussion to hear Godoy and others provide perspective on the caravan.
"The reality is that asylum has never worked for Central Americans, because we have never deemed to recognize that they are truly refugees," said Godoy.