Hundreds of migrants, mostly Hondurans, huddled overnight on a highway in eastern Guatemala in the early hours of Monday after national security forces used sticks and tear gas to stop the passage of a trailer bound for the United States just days before US President-elect Joe Biden took office.
As many as 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, officials said, fleeing poverty and lawlessness in a region rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and consecutive hurricanes in November.
“There is no food or water, and there are thousands of children, pregnant women, babies, and they don’t want to let us go,” said a Honduran who gave only the name from Pedro to the Reuters news agency.
Guatemalan authorities said Sunday evening they had sent 1,568 migrants home since Friday, the vast majority to Honduras. Almost 100 were returned to El Salvador.
A caravan of 9,000 migrants is on its way to the United States amid heightened violence and poverty in Honduras.
They were met by Guatemalan security forces, many of whom carried sticks, lined up near the border to prevent them from entering. pic.twitter.com/rqxjA1zgDl
– AJ + (@ajplus) January 17, 2021
A Reuters witness said about 2,000 migrants were still camping on the highway near the village of Vado Hondo, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the Honduran and El Salvador borders, after clashing with Guatemalan security forces Sunday.
Reports say migrants face food shortages and hunger when stuck on the highway.
Some migrants escaped the deadlock by fleeing into the hills to continue to the Mexican border, where the government has deployed police and National Guard soldiers.
“We ran in the mountains because I am traveling with my one-year-old,” Diany Deras, a Honduran, told Reuters.
Biden, whose stated immigration plans fall far short of the sweeping policies of Donald Trump’s administration, prepares to take office as the trailer heads to the United States.
A path to citizenship is at the forefront of its objectives. Ron Klain, Biden’s new chief of staff, said on Saturday that Biden would send Congress an immigration bill “on his first day in office.” He did not elaborate and Biden’s office declined to comment on details.
The move surprised supporters as the issue has long divided Democrats and Republicans, even within their own parties.
“This really represents a historic change from Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda which recognizes that all undocumented immigrants currently in the United States should be placed on the path to citizenship,” Marielena Hincapie, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, which was briefed on the bill, told the Associated Press news agency.
Trump has issued travel bans for people from many countries, mostly non-white, used illegal requirements to crack down on asylum claims and increased evictions.
Biden’s transition manager, speaking in the background, advised people not to travel to the United States.
“Overcoming the challenges created by the chaotic and cruel policies of the past four years, and those presented by COVID-19, will take time,” the official told Reuters.
But there are political issues that could delay the bill.
Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Biden told his lawyers on Thursday that Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate could delay consideration of the bill and that they should not count. on a pass within 100 days.
“I was pleasantly surprised that they were going to act quickly because we got the same promises from Obama, who was elected in 2008, and he totally failed,” Garcia told the AP news agency.
Ali Noorani, president of the National Forum on Immigration and among those briefed Thursday evening, said immigrants would be placed on an eight-year path to citizenship.
There would be a faster lane for those participating in the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals, which protects people from deportation who arrived in the country as young children, and to temporary protection status , which gives temporary status to hundreds of thousands of conflict-torn people. country, a lot of El Salvador.
Democrats control all branches of government, but with razor thin margins. Democratic lawmakers will likely have to negotiate aspects of the bill with their fellow Republicans for passage.
Fourteen Republican senators voted for an immigration reform bill in 2013.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that there were 12 million undocumented migrants in the United States in 2015, nearly 80% of them for more than 10 years.