The battle for immigrant rights continues. Despite the change in administration, laws that negatively impact immigrants are still in place. With the fear of the unknown and what's to come, many immigrant communities have taken to hiding or isolating themselves, including thousands of Guatemalans.
According to the Associated Press, many Guatemalans migrate to the U.S. driven by a chance to break the cycle of poverty in their country. While the numbers of migrants decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 30,000 encounters with Guatemalan migrants at the Southwest border this April, the AP reported. The number of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador increased since the start of this year due to ongoing economic and social inequalities that have only grown since the start of the pandemic.
The new Biden-Harris administration is working on addressing the root cause of this migration. Vice President Kamala Harris is also scheduled to visit Guatemala this weekend to address the country’s issues of poverty, corruption, violence, and climate change. In addition to flying to Guatemala, the vice president also plans to visit Mexico next week, CNN reported.
"We have a lot to discuss" Harris said, referencing the need to "support the folks who need help in terms of hunger, the economic development piece, the extreme weather.” "It's also about the need to have very frank and honest discussions about the need to address corruption, to address crime, and violence, and in particular against some of the most vulnerable populations in that country,” she added.
As a result of ongoing uncertainties, many migrants are still living in fear in the country, without knowing what will happen to them now that they have migrated.
“Anyone who has the opportunity should go,” Adán Rivera, a 40-year-old farmworker, told the AP. “Migrating isn’t easy; you put yourself in danger. But there is need.” Despite the conditions they face, many migrants believe the opportunity is worth it because it allows them to support their families and have the chance for change.
In addition to the economic, environmental, and social factors impacting migration, reports indicate that some migrants believed the change in administration would make it easier for them to cross the border. With Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and other policies in place, immigrants were facing harsh conditions when arriving at the border. However, despite the change in administration the capacity at border facilities still remains limited, President Joe Biden said last month.
The situation is being described as a crisis, with migrants facing the harshest of conditions after fleeing the already critical conditions in their home countries. Children especially have been subjected to horrific conditions, with border officials noting that a record-breaking 18,960 unaccompanied migrant children arrived at the border in March, according to the latest data.
While emergency facilities are being opened, the detention-like border facilities are unable to house children for more than 72 hours, leaving them often with nowhere to go once this time frame is up outside of facilities run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Harris hopes that her trip will allow for her to discuss the issues Central American migrants face and how the U.S. can help address them. "It's going to be an honest and real conversation," Harris said. "I'm there to listen as much as I'm there to share perspective."
The Biden administration said it will send more officials to Guatemala to provide training in the country in addition to opening several centers to provide resources to migrants in Guatemala. The centers will offer services and information on how individuals can lawfully migrate to the U.S. as well as provide resources to those in need of protection, asylum referrals, and refugee resettlement.