17 year-old Sofiya Suleimenova on the growing pressure at the border
February 9, 2024
US immigration authorities on alert following Honduras migrant caravan crossing
The recent wave of Honduran migrants who have crossed the border into Guatemala has sparked concern by immigration authorities.
There has been growing pressure in the US from both Republicans and Democrats to try to address this issue, with the matter being a hot topic in the upcoming 2024 elections.
What is a migrant caravan?
“This is a mixed migratory flow made up of migrants of different nationalities,” Allan Alvarenga, executive director of Honduras’ National Immigration Institute, wrote on X, which was picked up by the Tico Times. The 2024 caravan to Guatemala included women with young children.
The reasons for the crossings, as pointed out by Tico Times, is the “overwhelm[ing] poverty, violence and lack of opportunities” the people face in their countries.
In regards to Honduras, studies by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) show that “violence, lack of opportunity, unemployment, and climate-related disasters contribute to pushing thousands of Hondurans to flee,” outlines Human Rights Watch.
The migrants’ journeys involve risks and challenges, such as threats of being kidnapped by human traffickers and drug gangs, which force them to work for them, reported the BBC. In the article from 2018, the BBC noted the caravans, as relatively new, used as protection – traveling in larger groups reduces the chance of being targeted.
On January 21, 2024 a caravan of 500 migrants hoping to reach the United States dissolved after crossing the border into Guatemala, reported AP News. Out of the group, only 80 were able to go through immigration control and enter Guatemala, noted the Guatemalan Institute of Migration (IGM).
The 80 with documents were able to continue their journey as free movement is allowed among Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The caravan’s journey was monitored by both the staff of the IGM and agents of the National Civil Police, which allowed for the migrants documents to be verified at a checkpoint installed on the Motagua bridge, at kilometer 305 of the route to the Atlantic, in Izabal.
During this process, the IGM highlighted that it directed most of its attention towards children and adolescents, who were part of the caravan.
The caravan, walking from the bus terminal of San Pedro Sula in Honduras, marked the first group to leave Honduras since January 2022. Yet, since 2018 Honduran migrants have been forming caravans of thousands to try to cross Guatemala and Mexico on foot with the aim of reaching the US, and getting the taste of the so-called “American Dream,” as reported by the Tico Times.
What is the response to the increased arrival of migrants?
With the re-emergence of Honduran migrants this year, attention has been drawn to the concern of members of the National Migration Authority of Guatemala, who met for the first time this year to discuss the establishment of an “action plan in response to the large-scale of migrant mobilisations.”
The Guatemalan Council of Attention and Protection, aimed at the protection of migrants of both origin, transit, destination and/or return, and their interests. The Council also also highlighted the importance of upholding the Migration Code’s on human rights.
But, as pointed out by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), the way to deal with irregular migration to the US is by addressing the “root” causes pushing people to leave from countries, such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti in large numbers. These causes involve poverty, lack of economic opportunity, gang violence, and insecurity.
To ensure effective management of migratory flow, the MPI emphasizes the importance of the US’s collaboration with other countries, “particularly Mexico and others in North America,” in finding innovative “tailor aid programs” and implementing them “effectively.”
They further noted that the US can only “create the conditions under which the border will become manageable and less of a routine exercise in crisis management” by implementing an efficient asylum process and facilitating legal pathways for long term visas, guest worker programs and family reunification.
As emphasized by MPI, until the US government adapts to changing migration patterns, it will continue to struggle with migratory flow, as seen by the rise in the number of nationwide encounters to 3,201,144 in 2023 from 2,766,582 people in 2022, and the discontent it brings with it from both migrants and the US electorate.
How is migratory flow facilitated in today’s world?
Read the full policy report:
‘A Challenge Decades in the Making’
As the MPI explains the increase in migratory flow is partly due to “today’s environment” enabling communications via the internet and social media between migrants and human smugglers to be faster and direct, as well as the transfer of funds to pay for the travel, smuggling fees, and send remittances.
The work of human smuggling organizations is also facilitated by the fact that “highway, road infrastructure, and modern transportation conveyances and efficiencies (air, land, and sea) have reduced travel times from countries of origin to the United States.”
How is migration presenting itself in the current US election?
The MPI and former US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Alan Bersin, in a joint report ‘Migration at the U.S.-Mexico Border: A Challenge Decades in the Making’, said: “Actors with diametrically opposed beliefs and aims battle over comparatively technical aspects of the system while the major questions that drive migration and shape the country’s handling of it… have been left largely unaddressed.”
And once again immigration emerges as a top issue in the 2024 elections, highlights ABC News, which points out how voters in Iowa and New Hampshire rank immigration as nearly as important as the economy when asked about the determining matter behind the voting in the Republican presidential elections.
Although President Joe Biden in his 2020 campaign noted his predecessor’s campaigns on immigration policies as “harsh and inhumane,” he is now shifting over to bipartisan measures, in which he more or less agreed with Republican immigration politics, pointed out AP News.
With his comments on January 27 on the new Congress Emergency Border Authority bill supporting this notion, introduced by Sens. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona: “If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.”
If passed by Congress, the bill can temporarily “prohibit individuals from seeking asylum.” Therefore enabling the shut down of the border at particularly active times, and it could also end the practice of allowing migrants to live in the US while awaiting for their cases to be heard by an immigration judge.
As highlighted by the US independent, non-profit news organization the Georgia Recorder, if enacted this “would be the biggest changes to immigration law in nearly 40 years.” However, it notes a “tough path is ahead in both the Senate and House.”
In the first three years, the Biden administration has “taken 535 immigration-related executive actions, surpassing the 472 advanced during all four years of the Trump administration -which was widely viewed as having the most activist presidency yet on immigration.”
In the 2024 election process, former president and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his administration have taken the stance of highlighting the importance of border security, as he did successfully in his 2016 campaign.
But, as reported by ABC News, they are taking this even further, by announcing plans to carry out the “largest domestic deportation in American History” and to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship, if elected.