Migrant caravan, now in Guatemala, could pose early test for Biden

Thousands of migrants from Honduras have entered Guatemala and plan to continue north to the United States, which could be a first test of the immigration policies of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. committed to easing the Trump administration’s asylum restrictions.

After a few hundred people were able to pass the border police on Friday, thousands more followed Guatemala on Saturday. Officials said between 7,000 and 9,000 people had entered the country, many of whom were bypassing coronavirus checks.

the government of Guatemala said that it “regrets this violation of national sovereignty and calls on the Central American governments to take measures to avoid putting their inhabitants, as well as the communities crossed by these people, in danger in the face of the pandemic”.

Migrants are expected to encounter continuous obstacles along their route. Guatemalan authorities have set up checkpoints, blocked parts of the caravan not far from its entry into Guatemala and may start returning some of the migrants to their homes by bus, the Associated Press reported.

Mexican authorities have posted additional troops and immigration officers along the country’s southern border in anticipation of the caravan.

“On our national territory, we must guarantee an orderly, safe and regular migration, respecting human rights and humanitarian policies,” said Friday Francisco Garduño Yáñez, director of the National Institute of Immigration of Mexico.

Members of the group told reporters they were pushed to escape the crime, poverty and homelessness exacerbated by the pandemic and two hurricanes late last year.

“We have nothing to feed our children, and thousands of us have been left asleep in the streets,” Maria Jesus Paz, a mother of four, told Reuters news agency. She said her family lost their home in storms, forcing them to flee.

“This is why we are making this decision, even though we know the trip could cost us our lives,” she added.

The back-to-back hurricanes that hit Central America in November “destroyed the livelihoods of a region which was already facing an economic crisis and where the incomes of thousands of families had already been seriously reduced due to the pandemic” , said the International Committee of the Red Cross said saturday.

The Trump administration has entered into a series of agreements with Mexico and countries in Central America to prevent migrants from reaching the United States. Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of customs and border protection, said on Saturday that Guatemala continued to implement the agreement.

“Guatemala continues to support the regional alliance that is committed to ensuring safe, orderly and legal migration and to protecting public health during the global pandemic,” Mr. Morgan said on twitter. The Guatemalan immigration agency “is already returning members of caravans to Honduras after their illegal entry into Guatemala.”

During the presidential campaign, Biden said he would act quickly to overturn the more stringent asylum restrictions enacted by the Trump administration, which have disqualified those who did not seek protection by going to the United States and forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico. .

On his first day in office, Mr Biden plans to ask Congress for a general overhaul of immigration laws. The proposal, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, includes a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States, aid for damaged Central American economies and plans to help people fleeing violence.

Last month, Mr Biden, in an effort to avoid a border rush, warned that changes to immigration policy could not be put in place immediately after taking office and that his administration would need ” probably the next six months’ to grow. a more “humane” policy for the treatment of migrants.

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