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Biden considers sending cash payments to Central American countries amid border crisis: report

President Joe Biden is considering a new plan that would send American taxpayer money to countries in Latin America in hopes an economic boost would alleviate problems that force citizens in those countries from migrating north to the United States.

News of the plan broke as Biden continues to grapple with a record-breaking migrant surge and intensifying border crisis that his administration has attempted to downplay.

In fact, Customs and Border Protection data revealed that 172,000 migrants attempted to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border in March alone, the highest number in more than one decade and an increase of 71% compared to February 2021.

What are the details?

According to Reuters, the Biden administration is considering a “conditional cash transfer program” to help solve problems in the Northern Triangle region Central America, which includes the countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Roberta Jacobson, the White House’s southern border coordinator, revealed the existence of the plan. Jacobson did not, however, say exactly who might receive taxpayer dollars and how much money would be spent on solving economic problems in the Northern Triangle.

“We’re looking at all of the productive options to address both the economic reasons people may be migrating, as well as the protection and security reasons,” Jacobson said.

“The one thing I can promise you is the U.S. government isn’t going to be handing out money or checks to people,” she added.

However, an official with knowledge of the plan told Reuters “the options for cash transfers would be to channel funds to individuals through international or local non-governmental organizations that would vet them.”

What is the background?

Biden has already asked for “$4 billion in development aid to Central America over four years to address underlying causes of migration,” Reuters reported.

Biden’s budget proposal, which released this week, requested $861 million for the first installment of that effort. Reuters called Biden’s request “a sharp increase from the roughly $500 million in aid this year.”

More from Reuters:

A spokesman for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which administers foreign aid, told Reuters in a statement that it is already using cash transfers in programs “to help people meet their basic needs” in the wake of severe hurricanes in Central America in late 2020. USAID is considering expanding the efforts going forward, the spokesman said.

The United States in the past has used the USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives to fund work-for-cash programs in post-conflict nations such as Colombia. Such programs can include labor-intensive rural road-building projects.

Anything else?

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan announced Friday that Jacobson would be leaving the Biden administration by the end of April.

The New York Times called the timing of the news “striking,” but Jacobson downplayed the significance of her departure.

“I leave optimistically. The policy direction is so clearly right for our country,” she told the Times.

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Thousands marching in migrant caravan to US demand Biden administration ‘honor its commitments’

Thousands of migrants from Central America are on their way to the United States, and a migrant activist group representing the caravan is calling for the Biden administration to honor its “commitment.”

As many as 8,000 migrants from Honduras have entered Guatemala since Friday, Guatemala’s immigration authority informed Reuters. Guatemalan authorities said they already had detained hundreds of Honduran migrants from the caravan.

Videos show the massive caravan bust through a wall of law enforcement officers at the Guatemala border.

The migrants are fleeing political corruption, violence, and extreme poverty in Honduras, which was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and two devastating Category 4 hurricanes that battered the country within a two-week span in November.

“We have nothing to feed to our children, and thousands of us were left sleeping on the streets,” mother-of-four Maria Jesus Paz, who lost her home in the hurricanes, said. “This is why we make this decision, even though we know that the journey could cost us our lives.”

The mass migration by Hondurans is happening a week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The migrants are expecting that Biden will have a much more welcoming immigration policy compared to President Donald Trump.

Migrant rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras issued a statement on behalf of the people participating in the first caravan of 2021, Fox News reported.

“We recognize the importance of the incoming Government of the United States having shown a strong commitment to migrants and asylum seekers, which presents an opportunity for the governments of Mexico and Central America to develop policies and a migration management that respect and promote the human rights of the population in mobility,” the statement read. “We will advocate that the Biden government honors its commitments.”

During his presidential campaign run, Biden pledged to end Migrant Protection Protocols on day one of his presidency. The program that was enacted by the Trump administration in January 2019, makes asylum-seekers wait in Mexico during the duration of their immigration court cases.

Biden’s “groundbreaking” immigration reform plan is expected to provide a pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States.

Biden has also promised a moratorium on deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

However, Biden’s domestic policy advisor Susan Rice cautioned that changes in immigration wouldn’t happen immediately.

“Processing capacity at the border is not like a light that you can just switch on and off,” Rice told Spanish wire service EFE in December. “Migrants and asylum seekers absolutely should not believe those in the region peddling the idea that the border will suddenly be fully open to process everyone on Day 1. It will not.”

“Our priority is to reopen asylum processing at the border consistent with the capacity to do so safely and to protect public health, especially in the context of COVID-19,” Rice said. “This effort will begin immediately but it will take months to develop the capacity that we will need to reopen fully.”

The caravan reaching the U.S. border will depend on how much the Guatemalan and Mexican governments crackdown on the illegal immigrants traveling north toward the U.S.

Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan blamed the incoming administration for the caravan during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.”

“We’re looking at two groups that are well over five thousand. And one of those groups have already gotten through the Guatemala border. And they’re on their way to El Rancho, which is about the located centrally in Guatemala,” Morgan said on Saturday. “It’s coming. It’s already started, just as we promised and anticipated it would with this rhetoric from the new administration on the border.”

Trump issued a warning about the massive amount of illegal immigrants that would swarm the country if his policies are reversed.

“No matter our party, we should all agree on the need to protect our workers, our families, and our citizens of all backgrounds, no matter who they are,” Trump said on Tuesday. “In particular, if our border security measures are reversed, it will trigger a tidal wave of illegal immigration — a wave like you’ve never seen before. And I can tell you that, already, waves are starting to come up from 2,000 and 1,000 and 500 miles away. We see what’s coming.”

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Migrant caravan heads for US, where immigrants hope to exploit Biden’s reversal of Trump policies

More than 1,000 Honduran migrants departed their homeland last week in hopes of reaching the United States in the near future and that, when they do, President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will approach their plight with more compassion than the outgoing Trump administration.

The caravan — which is significantly smaller than the swarms of migrants that made headlines during the heart of President Donald Trump’s administration — is seeking refuge after two powerful hurricanes brought incredible devastation to Honduras, a Central American country that is already economically struggling.

Bertha Méndez, a 25-year-old who told the Wall Street Journal that she “lost everything” in the hurricanes, said she expects the caravan to reach the U.S. before Inauguration Day.

“We have asked God to help us and we believe that the new U.S. government will let us in,” she told the newspaper. “I travel with eight people and we all think that this is a good opportunity, because it is the only thing we have left after having lost everything in the floods.”

Bernarda López, a 48-year-old mother of eight, told the Journal, “We lost what little we had. There is nothing more to do. We are going to walk, or whatever, until we get there.”

Overall, border crossing have declined in 2020, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic and Trump’s immigration policies. However, that has begun to change in recent months, the New York Times reported.

After a steep decline in border crossings through much of this year, interceptions of unauthorized migrants along the Arizona-Mexico border are climbing again: Detentions in
October were up 30 percent over September, and the figure in coming months is expected be even higher, despite the biting cold in the Sonoran desert.

The rising numbers suggest that the Trump administration’s expulsion policy, an emergency measure to halt spread of the coronavirus, is encouraging migrants to make
repeated tries, in ever-more-remote locations, until they succeed in crossing the frontier undetected.

Fortunately for the migrants, there is hope. Biden, of course, has pledged to reverse Trump’s deterrent policies, though the policy reversals likely won’t be advertised

Still, Jose Luis Gonzalez, coordinator of the Guatemala Red Jesuita con Migrantes, told Bloomberg News that Biden’s pledge has emboldened immigrants who are desperate for a better life.

“When there is a change in government in the U.S. or Mexico, caravans start to move because they are testing the waters to see how authorities respond,” Gonzales explained. “What they see is that the one who said he was going to build a wall and hated Latinos is on his way out.”

“There are going to be caravans, and in the coming weeks it will increase,” he added. “People are no longer scared of the coronavirus. They’re going hungry, they’ve lost everything and some towns are still flooded.”

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VIDEO: New migrant caravan of thousands, bound for the US, illegally floods into Guatemala

A massive migrant caravan charged into Guatemala, the first since the coronavirus pandemic hit Central America in March. Videos show thousands of Honduran migrants pour across the Guatemala border as they march toward their final destination of the United States.

More than 3,000 migrants illegally crossed from Honduras and into Guatemala by midday on Thursday, The Guardian reported. New York Times correspondent Brent McDonald said, “Guatemala border officials expect another 3,000 migrants to enter from Honduras” on Friday. “That makes 6,000 so far en route to Mexico and the U.S. Just in time for the U.S. election.”

Guatemalan authorities had planned to register the migrants and offer assistance to anyone willing to turn around and go back to Honduras. However, the caravan stampeded through the border and past the massively outnumbered armed guards in the Guatemalan city of El Corinto.

One Honduran man died during the chaotic scene.

“The Guatemalan Institute of Migration said the man, who was not identified, was traveling aboard a tractor-trailer in the border town of Entre Ríos when he fell to the ground and was subsequently run over by the truck,” the Daily Mail reported.

“The migrants who arrived at the Guatemala border on Thursday had set out walking the previous night from San Pedro Sula, and many wore masks,” according to The Guardian. “They appeared to be mostly young men, though there were the occasional small children being pushed in strollers.”

“They’re leaving in groups and what they’re looking for are life alternatives outside Honduras because Honduras has nothing to offer,” Scalabrinian Sister Nyzelle Juliana Donde, director of the Honduran bishops’ migrant ministry, told the Catholic News Service. “What most migrants do is leave for basic needs. The pandemic exacerbated hunger, poverty, lack of opportunity. ‘Maras’ and gangs have also worked very hard during this time.”

Guatemalan officials have concerns about a massive caravan traveling through the country.

“We’re talking about a caravan in the middle of a pandemic,” said Guatemala’s migration director Guillermo Díaz. “The situation is complicated because they broke the health protocols and we don’t know who has entered (the country).”

Guatemala has had over 3,200 COVID-19 deaths, and Honduras has had nearly 2,400 coronavirus deaths, according to Worldometers. Guatemala only opened its borders last week after being closed for six months to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Guatemalan government promised to detain and deport anyone caught illegally crossing its border.

In October 2018, President Donald Trump said he would be ending or “substantially reducing” foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador if they didn’t do something about the caravans flowing into the United States.

In June 2019, Mexico and the U.S. reached a deal to curb migrants flooding across the border.

“Given the dramatic increase in migrants moving from Central America through Mexico to the United States, both countries recognize the vital importance of rapidly resolving the humanitarian emergency and security situation,” the joint agreement states. “The Governments of the United States and Mexico will work together to immediately implement a durable solution.”

On Friday, journalist Todd Bensman posted a video of Mexican federal troops at the Guatemalan border preparing to stop the migrant caravan from entering Mexico.