A caravan of migrants tried to begin the long walk from Honduras to America’s Southern Border in what could have turned into an early test of immigration policy under presumptive President-elect Joe Biden.
A group estimated at roughly 600 strong left the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula on Wednesday moving toward the first barrier on the journey — the Guatemalan border, according to Reuters.
Guatemalan officials said migrants would need passports and proof they were not carrying the coronavirus in order to enter the country.
However, the group was stopped by Honduran security personnel Thursday before reaching the Guatemalan border, according to the Associated Press. When asked to provide travel and health documentation, the migrants were unable to do so and were told they could not continue without the documents.
Even so, due to devastation from Hurricanes Eta and Iota, the impetus to leave Honduras and other Central American nations is likely to grow, said one commentator.
“There are going to be caravans, and in the coming weeks it will increase,” said Jose Luis Gonzalez, coordinator of the Guatemala Red Jesuita con Migrantes, a non-governmental organization, according to Bloomberg.
“People are no longer scared of the coronavirus. They’re going hungry, they’ve lost everything and some towns are still flooded,” he said.
During the presidential campaign, Biden attacked the policies and programs President Donald Trump has used to limit illegal immigration. That encouraged migrants to think they could be successful where others had failed, Gonzalez said.
“When there is a change in government in the U.S. or Mexico, caravans start to move because they are testing the waters to see how authorities respond,” he said.
A presumptive victory from Biden “has raised expectations that he could soften immigration policy,” the AP reported.
Some frame their hopes of entry to the U.S. by saying they have nothing left to lose.
Victor Espinal, 31, of La Lima, Honduras, told Bloomberg that flooding wrecked his family’s home and led to him losing his job.
“There’s nothing for me here now,” he said. “The walls are all that’s left and there isn’t a single piece of furniture, not even a plate to eat off of. I’m not one to cry, but when I returned home I felt like crying. I see memes that say material goods aren’t important, but they are important because people work their whole lives for them and in 15 days, it’s all gone.”
In commenting on the developing caravan for the Center for Immigration Studies, Todd Bensman said the next steps of the drama will reveal much about what is to take place under a Biden administration.
“A key issue is whether Mexico’s national guard deployment throughout its southern states that border Guatemala will hold in the last days of President Trump’s administration, or remain in place after Biden takes office next month,” he wrote, noting that Mexico’s current anti-caravan policy reflects pressure applied to the country by Trump.
“Should Mexican resolve fail at its southern border with any caravan, America’s southern neighbor likely would revert to its traditional role as a free-flowing migrant superhighway to the American border,” he wrote.
In its 2021 Threat Assessment, the Department of Homeland Security predicted migration will be a major issue in the coming year.
“DHS anticipates that the number of apprehensions at the border will significantly climb post-pandemic, with the potential for another surge as those who were previously prevented from seeking entry into the United States arrive at the border and as poor economic conditions around the world fuel migration.
“This high volume of illegal immigration, including unprecedented numbers of family units and unaccompanied alien children arrivals, stretch government resources, and create a humanitarian and border security crisis that cripples the immigration system,” the report said.
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