SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras—Several hundred migrants who had departed from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula Saturday in hopes of reaching the United States entered Guatemalan territory where they were intercepted by authorities who began talks on returning them to their homelands.
Some 300 migrants, mainly Hondurans and Nicaraguans, arrived in Corinto, Honduras Saturday afternoon, and crossed into the Guatemalan border province of Izabal, where they were met by hundreds of anti-riot agents from the national police and army.
The Guatemalan Migration Institute said it was in talks with the migrants on returning them to their countries of origin. Those who wish to remain in Guatemala must present their personal identification document, vaccination card, and a negative test for COVID-19.
“People are being returned, everything in order, humanely,” said institute general director Carlos Emilio Morales. “We are protecting our borders; we are protecting the health of all Guatemalans.”
Guatemala’s government said 36 people were deported to Honduras because they did not meet the requirements and a group of 10 who met immigration and health requirements were allowed to continue.
The migrants had begun their journey toward the United States from San Pedro Sula shortly after dawn Saturday, walking to the Guatemalan border in hopes that traveling in a group would be safer or cheaper than trying to hire smugglers or trying on their own. They were joined by a second smaller group.
The caravan, which is the first to be registered this year, originally had about 600 members but divided into several groups to try to evade the control of the Guatemalan authorities, and go through the different border crossings, and illegal routes.
Large numbers of migrants, many from Central America and Haiti, have reached the U.S. border over the past year.
The U.S. Border Patrol has said it had more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the Mexican border between September 2020 and the same month in 2021—more than four times the total of the previous fiscal year.
Biden has backed proposals for $7 billion in aid to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras in hopes improved economic conditions will slow migration.
At the end of last year, the U.S. government reactivated an immigration policy that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their hearings. Mexico’s foreign ministry confirmed the reactivation of the U.S. program and said it would temporarily not return migrants to their countries of origin for humanitarian reasons.