GUATEMALA CITY—In March, Guatemala closed its borders and airports to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But there was one special set of flights still allowed in – and it was for immigration enforcement. Asylum seekers from Honduras and El Salvador were being deported to Guatemala, with the planes lifting off from Texas. A few days ago, Guatemala temporarily suspended acceptance of these flights. But many detainees have already landed there and claim they were misled about where they were going in the first place.
The fights were conducted under a Trump administration policy that is under challenge in U.S. federal court. Opponents claim U.S. law and international treaty obligations are being violated by sending people to countries where they face certain danger.
Blanca Díaz is a 26-year-old from Usulután, El Salvador where she operated a one-person unisex hair salon from home. She says she received extortion threats from pandilleros, criminals who are soldiers for organized crime. Pandilleros are akin to parallel states in Central America’s Northern Triangle – a security-challenged region comprising El Savador, Guatemala and Honduras.
The Canada border at Roxham Road near Champlain, New York. Canada’s Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff this unofficial crossing 24 hours a day. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
CHAMPLAIN, New York—Washington has ended a temporary residency program for almost 60,000 Haitians allowed to legally enter the United States following an earthquake in 2010. The affected Haitians will have to leave the US by 2019. The program has also been revoked for two thousand Nicaraguans and it’s unclear if other groups including 300,000 Salvadorans will be allowed to remain. The net result is a continued flow of people crossing the border into Canada by foot. They are taking advantage of a footnote in a Canada-US treaty that says foot crossers won’t be turned back from Canada until their case is heard.
The Canada border at Roxham Road near Champlain, New York. Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff this unofficial crossing 24 hours a day. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
After cresting this past summer, the story continues to unfold at places such as Roxham Road, north of Champlain in upstate New York. The United States Border Patrol says illegal crossings on foot into Canada are also taking place in Vermont. Only now, before they cross on foot, people like Mansour, a 37-year-old engineer from Yemen, are met by a group of women, Canadians and Americans, that includes Janet McFetridge of Champlain.
A man from Congo speaks with RCMP officers after illegally entering Canada. (photo: Lorne Matalon)
The man from Congo was then frisked before being processed in the white trailer. (photo: Lorne Matalon)