Early on Friday morning, thousands of Honduran migrants started to make their way towards the Guatemalan border, “driven by deepening poverty and the hope of a warmer reception if they can reach the United States border.”
According to Yahoo News, “estimates of their number ranged from 2,000 to more than twice that,” as “young men and entire families carrying sleeping children set out.”
A new migrant caravan headed for the United States advances towards Guatemala from Naco, Honduras. pic.twitter.com/ZJczwy0civ
— The Hill (@thehill) January 15, 2021
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is top of mind for several Central American governments as the caravan began its long journey. On Wednesday night, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei called for a “state of prevention” along the border with Honduras, noting “the threat of migrants entering without required documentation and without following pandemic-related screening at the border,” and that “more than 2,000 national police and soldiers would be stationed at the border.” The country will also require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before allowing entry.
In Mexico, the country’s National Immigration Institute “posted videos showing hundreds of agents and National Guard members drilling on the southern border. It said the agents are ‘keeping vigilant in the states of southern Mexico … to enforce the immigration law.’”
Last month, authorities stopped hundreds of migrants from forming a caravan before they reached the border with Guatemala, with other caravans last year “broken up by Guatemalan authorities before they reached Mexico.”
Mark Morgan, acting Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, warned against the dangerous journey many were considering, saying “The dangerous journey both puts you in harm’s way and endangers the lives and health of those in the US and regional countries through the potential spread of COVID-19,” and that migrants shouldn’t “waste [their] time and money.”
Morgan also described the journey as “deadly,” saying that the U.S. Border Patrol “recovered more than 250 bodies along the U.S.-Mexico border last fiscal year,” and that they “saw two deaths just last week, when smugglers abandoned dozens of migrants in a winter storm that dumped two feet of snow near Big Bend, Texas.”
Last October, Central American countries heeded “President Donald Trump’s call to improve security on their own borders,” when a “new ‘migrant caravan’ headed to the United States’ border with Mexico, was turned back as it reached Guatemala, and its members were bussed back to their homes in Honduras.”
Back in 2018, “The United States Customs and Border Protection Agency struggled to contain an influx of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and other Central American countries,” with “thousands upon thousands of asylum seekers presenting themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border.”
These migrant caravans stopped by early 2019 “after a series of changes including a ‘remain in Mexico’ policy that forced asylum seekers to wait for their hearings south of the U.S. border and pressure on the Mexican government to control their own southern border.” Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador was criticized by some for “increasing hostility among Mexican law enforcement agents toward migrant caravans,” with The Guardian reporting that “Mexico has become Trump’s wall.”
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