It is almost 9:00 pm on Sunday and, since she left Honduras five days ago, Nancy Herrera has had few joys. He first received sticks and gases in Vado Hondo, in Guatemala. When she reached the border with Mexico, she was stopped by an immigration agent who demanded almost $ 1,000 to let her go on her way. And, when the extortionist in an official suit realized that he was not carrying a peso even to pay for the mask he was wearing, the uniformed man proposed an alternative business: he would give him a job in one of the filthy canteens on the banks of the Suchiate river where he could practice prostitution at 40 quetzales (about five dollars) the “service.” The last night before appearing in front of the journalists, he passed them in the Tecún Uman square, until a policeman, with a kick, ordered him to move from there and move to the mud next to the river.
On the night of Sunday, January 17, he had his first joy in several days. He has managed to find his brother, from whom he separated in flight, and regroup the family. The five of them, her, her son Emerson, her brother Melvin, her grandfather Santos and Elba, a Nicaraguan woman they met in the caravan, suddenly appear in the undergrowth on the Mexican side. All of them crossed the Suchiate after several hours hidden observing from the shore the movements of the National Guard and Mexican immigration agents. Nancy took advantage of the relay and the gaps that open in the human wall ordered by López Obrador to prevent the passage of the caravan, to cross the river at the right time. Little Emerson, four years old and with four fingers on his left hand, always went hand in hand, because the one he is missing, says his mother, “was cut off because of the gangs in Honduras.”
When everyone is finally dry and in a place as safe as a bank teller in Ciudad Hidalgo, Nancy, 23, goes bankrupt. “People in Honduras are not dying of covid, but of hunger,” he says. “There is no work, there is no money, there is no opportunity for anything. Those who have not been able to pass now will try again later, ”he says, referring to a caravan that was beaten up in central Guatemala. His grandfather Santos puts his hand around his neck, remembering how far the water reached him in November when hurricanes flooded his house and he decided to leave San Pedro Sula forever.
The first conclusion is that the wall originally erected in Mexico has now moved several hundred kilometers to the south. Today, the caravans are an obstacle course where the next ditch is farther south. This time in Escuintla, eight hours from the border with Mexico. The second is that the size of the caravans is increasing. The most recent, the one that this week crashed into the wall of the Guatemalan police and military, of almost 9,000 people was double the previous one. The third conclusion is the outsourcing of surveillance services. The United States passed the order to Mexico and Mexico to Guatemala. The model promoted by Trump that has served so that poor countries use poorer countries than the previous ones to act as gendarmes. The fourth is that none of the measures proposed by new president Joe Biden will benefit them. The immigrant regularization process promoted by the new president applies to those who were in the United States before January 1.
López Obrador said before Biden’s inauguration that it was important to put the promise of immigration reform on the bilateral agenda, an issue that Mexico has pursued for two decades and that is a priority for the more than 38 million people of Mexican origin who they live in the United States.
With this panorama, one of the options that gains strength is to stay in Mexico, however, the plans to promote a Marshall plan that helps the economic development of Central America have so far remained on paper after the indifference of the Trump Administration and the little collaboration of the Central American countries. Consequently, the López Obrador government’s response has been to militarize the border and deploy thousands of members of the National Guard along the nearly 1,000 kilometers of the border between Guatemala and Mexico. However, after the passage of hurricanes Iota and Eta through Central America the situation is even more serious and hundreds of thousands of Hondurans live in near destitution after the floods. The caravans were an escape valve that has been truncated after the active role of Guatemala to stop them.
Three days later, on Wednesday, we found the Herrera family, Nancy, Santos, Melvin and Emerson, sleeping in a miserable hotel in Tapachula where they have been able to get into thanks to the charity of the Mexicans. Along with other Central Americans and Caribbeans trying to get their refugee roles, a huge Haitian who follows Biden’s ceremony on a cell phone reminds them that even if they hear good words from Biden, nothing will change for them. Michael Elysee, born in Port-au-Prince, reminds them that he was deported by Obama with a much kinder speech than Trump towards migrants. “The white devil left,” he says in reference to Trump, “but I was deported by Obama the first day I set foot in the United States,” he says in Creole. His Administration broke the record for deportations and returned 2.5 million undocumented immigrants between 2009 and 2015. This time from the north comes happier news and although few believe that the situation will change, at least the dialectic is no longer aggressive and bully. That, which seems like a minor detail, is one of the few happy messages that reach a border hotel.