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Guatemala Blocks Thousands Bound For US, Migrants Cite Biden's Immigration Pledges During Campaigns

January 19, 2021

Every year, tens of thousands of Central American migrants attempt this perilous journey to reach the US, often on foot, in groups known as "caravans".

A group of US-bound Central American migrants has been met with truncheons and tear gas in Guatemala, where security forces blocked their path.

Thousands of people were intercepted on the road near the border with Honduras on Sunday. The government said it would not accept "illegal mass movements".


An estimated 7,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, have entered in recent days, fleeing poverty and violence, BBC reports.

They hope to travel on to Mexico, and then the US border.

Every year, tens of thousands of Central American migrants attempt this perilous journey to reach the US, often on foot, in groups known as "caravans".

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, has vowed to end the strict immigration policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, a Republican.

But the Biden administration, which will take office on Wednesday, has warned migrants not to make the journey, as immigration policies will not change overnight.

As the migrants trekked across Guatemala towards its border with Mexico, they were slowed down by security forces near the south-eastern village of Vado Hondo.

A group of soldiers and police officers blockaded a road, stopping many of them from advancing. Some people still attempted to force their way through, prompting security forces to push them back. Several people were injured.

Many migrants retreated, with some waiting nearby to make a new attempt later. Others fled into nearby mountains.

"Fortunately the security forces established a contingency plan... and contained this battle," said Guillermo Díaz, head of Guatemala's migration agency.

Members of Mr Biden's team have warned Central American migrants not to make dangerous journeys to the border.

Speaking to NBC News, an unnamed senior Biden administration official said migrants attempting to claim asylum in the US "need to understand they're not going to be able to come into the United States immediately".

The Biden administration will prioritise undocumented immigrants already living in the US, not those heading to the country now, the official said.

"Processing capacity at the border is not like a light that you can just switch on and off," Susan Rice, one of Mr Biden's policy advisers, told the Spanish language news agency Efe in December.

A statement from the Guatemalan president's office said: "Guatemala's message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that's why we are working together with the neighbouring nations to address this as a regional issue."

The government later said 21 migrants who had sought medical assistance tested positive for Covid-19.