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Latin American Exodus

In recent years, the number of migrants moving across Latin America into the United States has vastly increased. Due to causes including limited access to education and jobs, political turmoil, economic slumps—especially in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic—and political corruption, migrants have been leaving their native countries and heading to the alluring North.

The conditions for many migrants making the journey to the U.S. are far from ideal, but they continue moving from place to place in search of stability. Many come from communities that have been destroyed due to hurricanes, mudslides and other natural disasters. Hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit in Nov. 2020, landed in Latin America and caused a combined $9.7 billion in property damage. Damage from the hurricanes and mudslides affected the livelihood of 4.5 million Hondurans, sparking a wave of migration from Honduras into neighboring countries, vastly overwhelming the already struggling Colombian Government.

One difference between past and current immigrations crises is the country of origin of these migrants. Shown by recent apprehensions by the United States along the Southern Border, there have been strong increases in migrants from countries that have represented small fractions of border migrants in the past. Typically, the majority of arrests result from Mexican migrants and those from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, often termed to be the Northern Triangle. In recent months, partly due to the pandemic, there have been spikes in migrations from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Currently, there are around 15,000 people mostly of Haitian descent in encampments along the Texas-Mexico border, forcing the United States to send flights returning them to Haiti. Often crowded and with little sanitation, the condition of these encampments is dire and the situation is no different for other Latin American migrants.

Many of the migrants have been willing to make the long and arduous journey to the Southern Border of the United States with knowledge of the inevitable dangers that lay ahead. Their reason: the thriving U.S. economy post-pandemic and the Biden Administration’s relaxed stance on immigration. Now, many migrants are seeing their hopes destroyed because of the Biden Administration’s enforcement of Title 42 of pandemic restrictions—an order created during the Trump Administration to deny asylum seekers and immigrants at the Southern Border with the pandemic as a pretext. Recently, the Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, affirmed that 5,000 migrants are in Homeland Security custody while another 8,000 have voluntarily returned to Mexico. Without being able to enter the United States, these migrants will have to continue moving until they can find asylum or a safe and secure place to settle.

The route continues to be dangerous for those seeking a better life. These obstacles include moving between different countries, experiences with sickness, hostile gangs, abduction, trafficking, sexual assault and police being sent to enforce immigration restrictions. The United States is not the only country seeing a rise in migration numbers. Colombia and Guatemala are just two of the several other nations that are struggling to handle the influx of migrants. In turn, kitchens and other social work supply areas attempt to provide necessities to migrants with no means, but many migrants resort to crime out of desperation to survive. The governments of these Latin American countries, often with their own internal political problems, struggle to handle this strong increase in migration, and oftentimes lack both the resources and willingness to do so. Though there is no clear solution to the problem of migration in South America, one thing is clear: the migrants continue to come and will continue to do so as long as they believe they have a chance for a better, more stable life somewhere else.

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