With Joe Biden now sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, massive changes are being enacted in US immigration policy. Anticipating these changes, tens of thousands of migrants from around the world see this as their chance to finally make it to America's shores.
Thousands of Honduran migrants clashed with police in the Guatemalan border town of Chiquimula. They are heading for the United States, determined to get in line for a promised amnesty by the new Biden administration.
But the caravan met stiff resistance and was broken up by Guatemalan security forces.
Guatemalan Journalist Carlos Duarte says, "The immigrants just scatter. Some are going back. The last estimates I saw from the immigration department was about 1,500 Hondurans were sent back, but there are still around 4,000 to 5,000 that are still in the country but have scattered."
Signals from the Biden administration about amnesty are motivating these Hondurans to keep trying.
For example, Biden's Department of Homeland Security has announced it will put a 100-day hold on deportations for noncitizens and stop the "remain in Mexico" program.
That prompted one migrant to go on camera saying, “Biden, he’s going to help all of us. He’s given us 100 days to get to the U.S.”
“Biden, he’s going to help all of us. He’s given us 100 days to get to the U.S.”
Biden’s executive order plans for immigration are a dangerous open invitation for caravans of illegal immigrants to flood the U.S. border. pic.twitter.com/Y2AqFYS9al
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) January 28, 2021
"We all know that during the President Donald Trump's administration, the United States practically ordered Guatemala and Honduras to do something about the Caravans, and also Mexico," Duarte said. "But they are saying that because of Biden, maybe his immigration policies are going to be more relaxed and offer immigration possibilities to anybody."
In a Senate hearing Tuesday to vet Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, the nominee spoke of Biden's commitment to providing relief for the caravans.
Mayorkas said, "President-Elect Biden and members of his incoming administration have spoken about the fact that there is a commitment to follow our asylum laws and that means to provide humanitarian relief for those individuals who qualify for it."
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But border patrol officers already have their hands full, as overwhelmed hospitals in Mexico send thousands of COVID refugees streaming into the U.S. every day. So far, 21 Border Patrol officers have died from the virus in the past year.
Art Del Cueto, president of the Border Patrol Council, said, "When it comes to the individuals that are just crossing illegally, they are not taking much precautions, a lot of these individuals coming across, they are not wearing any type of mask they just want to get here."
"There were reports that a lot of immigrants on the border gave a positive diagnosis for COVID and some were infected, so that's why the government decided to break it up and send it back," Duarte explained.
Pandemic or not, the Biden administration's talk of a sweeping amnesty for illegal immigrants is foremost in the minds of these Hondurans, and the incoming DHS secretary knows he has his work cut out for him.
Mayorkas said, "That cannot be accomplished with a flick of a switch and turned on day one, it will take time to build the infrastructure and capacity so that we can enforce our laws as Congress intended."
Translation: Get ready for a huge wave at the U.S. southern border.