Hundreds of migrants from Honduras enter Guatemala, toward US

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A group of about 800 Hondurans crossed into Guatemala Thursday, the first leg of their journey to the United States, according The Associated Press

The migrants crossed into Guatemala without interference from authorities, who had originally planned to register them.

Honduras and Guatemala are part of a regional compact that allows for the free movement of people, but restrictions on travel were imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those restrictions have since been lifted, but authorities in Central American countries and Mexico have warned that the dangers of the pandemic persist, particularly for people traveling in large groups.

Central American migrants have for years opted to travel through Mexico in groups, a measure that provides some protection from criminals and authorities preying on them.

But the group of roughly 800, which left San Pedro Sula on Wednesday night, is small in comparison to the so-called migrant caravans of 2018, one of which swelled to around 7,000 people.

It’s unclear whether the Hondurans will be allowed to travel through Mexico, which has commanded its National Guard to police immigration from Central America at the behest of President Trump.

The options at the U.S.-Mexico border are also limited for the migrants, as the asylum system has essentially been shut down by the Trump administration, forcing potential asylees to wait in Mexico until their claims are resolved.

Still, the migrants could potentially arrive at the border in October or November, before cold winter temperatures significantly increase the dangers of attempting to cross the border between points of entry.

Representatives for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. 

According to the AP report, at least one member of the group said they were leaving Honduras because of a lack of economic opportunity.

“Even when you want to find a job, there aren’t any. That’s why we leave our country,” 17-year-old Edwin Omar Molino told the AP.

Latin America has endured hard economic fallout amid the pandemic, with several regional economies contracting in the double digits.

Central American countries like Honduras and Guatemala have relatively low positivity rates of COVID-19, but their testing capacities have been called into question.

Molino told the AP he was scared of the pandemic, but the potential to make a living made it worthwhile to cross Mexico and enter the United States, two countries hit hardest by COVID-19. 

Mexico, which has one of the lowest testing rates in the world, ranks fourth in total deaths; the United States ranks first in COVID-19 deaths, accounting for about a quarter of all global deaths.

Tags Central America Customs and Border Patrol Donald Trump Guatemala Honduras immigrants US immigration US-Mexico Border

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