Hundreds of Honduran migrants traveling to the US were returned to their homes on Saturday morning after illegally entering Guatemala.
The group of mostly young men and a few young children was hit by a major roadblock by the Guatemalan authorities after the country’s president Alejandro Giammattei promised on Thursday to arrest and return anyone who entered illegally.
“We will not allow any foreigner who has used illegal means to enter the country believing that they have the right to come and infect us [with coronavirus] and putting us at serious risk, ”Giammattei said in a radio address to the nation.
None of the 1,000 or so migrants who were stopped by police and soldiers stayed on the highway at 5 a.m. on Saturday, The Associated Press reported.
Hours earlier, migrants had boarded buses and army trucks to be brought back to the border, the police said.
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Authorities had planned to register the migrants as they crossed the previous Thursday and offer help to those willing to turn back, but the group crossed the border at Corinto without registering and initially pushed on outnumbered Guatemalan policemen and soldiers who hardly tried to stop them. They later hit the roadblock near San Luis Peten.
Within hours of crossing the border, the Guatemalan authorities reported the first death of migrants. A person tried to climb onto a moving flatbed trailer but fell under its wheels. The authorities did not immediately reveal any additional details.
Many of the migrants didn’t make it far to Guatemala before they had to stop. Soon they lined up for miles in small groups along the freeway, while some caught drives and others walked under the hot sun.
In one group were four teenagers, all friends and neighbors from San Pedro Sula, from whom hundreds of migrants had left together. The teens decided to leave after seeing others organize on Facebook.
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The youngest, 15-year-old Josty Morales told the AP he wanted to live the “American Dream” and was looking for a way to support his 6 month old son at home.
“There’s no work,” he said. “Necessity strangles you.”
On Friday, more than 100 Guatemalan soldiers and police blocked the migrants, who were increasingly frustrated with the lack of food and moving forward after walking out of Honduras earlier this week.
Migrants asked the authorities either to let them through or to provide them with food.
Some of the original 2,000 migrants volunteered to return to Honduras, the Guatemalan immigration authorities said.
Other migrants also left the main route and went to Guatemala City either on foot or by car.
While Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed on Friday that the migrants would go to the US to influence the US presidential election, Deputy Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said Mexico was “morally, legally and politically obliged to help them” . He said they pose no coronavirus risk.
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Last year, President Trump threatened massive tariffs on Mexican imports if the authorities did not curb the flow of migrants to the border. Mexico responded by deploying the National Guard and other immigration officers to intercept large groups of migrants.
Fox News’ Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.