Punish hurricanes to promote more Central American migration

San Pedro Sula, Honduras (AP)-At a shelter in this city north of Honduras, Lillian Gabriella Santos Salmiento says a series of hurricanes struck by devastating anger this month overturned her life. Her home, once a beautiful neighborhood in nearby Larimar, was destroyed by the flood.

A 29-year-old woman who had never graduated from junior high school managed to build her own life and recently cleaned the COVID-19 ward at a local hospital. Now lost everything, she says Honduras has no future at her age and education level.

“In Honduras, I think it’s very difficult to redo what took 10 years,” Santos said. So her plan is to leave for the United States.

“If you have a caravan, I’ll go,” she said, referring to a large group of migrants, often on foot, making difficult journeys together.

In shelters and improvisational camps throughout Central America, families who lost everything in the severe floods caused by two major hurricanes have reached the same conclusion.

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, more than 4.3 million Central Americans, including 3 million Hondurans, were affected by hurricane eaters alone. These numbers only increased when another Category 4 storm, Jota, struck the area last week.

The destruction of the hurricane is in addition to the economic paralysis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the persistent violence and lack of work that have recently driven families north of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Adding an element of hope from President-elect Joe Biden, experts predict that the region is at stake for another major migration.

“This will be much larger than what we see,” said Jenny Argero, a San Pedro Sula sociologist who studies the flow of migration. “I believe the entire community will leave.”

“The outlook is painful.”

It’s still early. Tens of thousands remain in shelters, but those along the migration route have already begun to see storm victims dripping north.

Eta landed in Nicaragua on November 3, leaving the way for death and destruction from Panama to Mexico. On November 16, Jota struck the same area of ​​Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, causing more rain to still flooded countries. At least 150 people have died and more than 100 remain missing.

On the same day that Eta landed, US voters elected Biden in a pandemic that devastated the continent for more than eight months. Democrats have promised a more compassionate approach to immigrants, even when desperate families are considering their options in muddy Central American homes.

Among the most devastated areas was the northern part of Honduras, the country’s most productive agricultural area. The Surah Valley has reported large crop losses that increase the risk of food shortages. Damaged companies mean less work.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed and the infamous gang violence is unforgiving. Some residents around San Pedro Sula have reported that gangsters are taxing boats trying to save people from flooded neighborhoods.

Mauro Verzeretti, director of Casa del Migrante in Guatemala City, said the storm would increase poverty in addition to the violence that people are already facing, forcing more migration.

“They have already begun to come, it has begun,” he said, and a group of eight Hondurans expelled by the storm arrived last week and spent the night on their way. ..

Jarlin Antonio Lorenzo lives for days under the elevated San Pedro Sula in a bathroom-less camp after a flood from his home. He said he had no choice but to make the transition.

“You’ll see all these faces in the caravan,” he said, pointing at the people around him. “We go because we can’t stand poverty and hunger.”

Felipe del Sid, Chief Operating Officer of the American Red Cross, described the “triple emergency” in countries such as Honduras and Guatemala. area. He said the Red Cross is preparing for internally displaced persons and migration to other countries.

Mauricio Paredes, vice president of the Honduras Red Cross in San Pedro Sula, said the Honduras Red Cross had just completed the search and rescue phase after Jota’s attack on Eta.

“Cities that have been flooded before have been flooded again, but this time it’s more serious and quicker because the embankments that protect the city have been damaged by Eta,” Paredes said. Mr. said.

On the other hand, great expectations are rising for the next Biden administration. A dramatic change in attitudes towards immigrants is the most pressing expectation, followed by expectations for the abolition of the Trump administration’s policy, which has kept asylum seekers awaiting proceedings from Mexico.

Still, changes to the US asylum process in particular can be time consuming.

Last week, New York Democrat Nidia Velasquez submitted a bill giving temporary protection to Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguas who already live in the United States. Trump is trying to end the so-called TPS, and in some cases, decades after they left, could send thousands of families back to their home countries.

But experts warn that Biden will be careful not to make changes that could attract a new wave of immigrants.

They also warn that policies to stop migrant caravans in Mexico and Guatemala are unlikely to change. Guatemala disbanded a predominantly Hondurans caravan in early October, before arriving in Mexico.

“The change of power does not mean that the United States will weaken its borders and cause large-scale immigration. All families in the region need to take this into account,” said the non-governmental Salvador immigration study. César Ríos, the director of the institute, said.

“The fact that (Biden) promised an approach that pays homage to human rights does not mean that they intend to facilitate immigration.”

At the same time, Rios believes there is a growing need. “We are going into a very painful reality in this region. In our country of Central America, poverty will increase and families will have more needs.”

For Santos, returning to San Pedro Sula’s shelter and losing everything strengthened why many of her compatriots left.

“When they go, it’s that anguish has already overwhelmed them, they can’t do it anymore,” she said. “I’m heading there too.”


Verza reported from Mexico City. AP writer Christopher Sherman from Mexico City and Sonia Pérez D from Guatemala City. Contributed to this report.

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Punish hurricanes to promote more Central American migration

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