SAN ANTONIO HUISTA, Guatemala — An American contractor went to a small town in the Guatemalan mountains with an ambitious goal: to ignite the local economy, and hopefully even persuade people not to migrate north to the United States.
Half an hour into his meeting with coffee growers, the contractor excitedly revealed the tool he had brought to change their lives: a pamphlet inviting the farmers to download an app to check coffee prices and “be a part of modern agriculture.”
Pedro Aguilar, a coffee farmer who hadn’t asked for the training and didn’t see how it would keep anyone from heading for the border, looked confused. Eyeing the U.S. government logo on the pamphlet, he began waving it around, asking if anyone had a phone number to call the Americans “and tell them what our needs really are.”
soared in 2019 and is on the upswing once more.
have risen, malnutrition has become a national crisis, corruption is unbridled and the country is sending more unaccompanied children to the United States than anywhere else in the world.
That is the stark reality facing Ms. Harris as she assumes responsibility for expanding the same kind of aid programs that have struggled to stem migration in the past. It is a challenge that initially frustrated her top political aides, some of whom viewed the assignment from Mr. Biden as one that would inevitably set her up for failure in the first months of her tenure.
Her allies worried that she would be expected to solve the entire immigration crisis, irked that the early reports of her new duties appeared to hold her responsible for juggling the recent surge of children crossing the border without adults.
linked to drug traffickers and accused of embezzling American aid money, the leader of El Salvador has been denounced for trampling democratic norms and the government of Guatemala has been criticized for persecuting officials fighting corruption.
Even so, Ms. Harris and her advisers have warmed to the task, according to several people familiar with her thinking in the White House. They say it will give her a chance to dive squarely into foreign policy and prove that she can pass the commander-in-chief test, negotiating with world leaders on a global stage to confront one of America’s most intractable issues.
critics denounced as unlawful and inhumane. Moreover, members of the current administration contend that Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze a portion of the aid to the region in 2019 ended up blunting the impact of the work being done to improve conditions there.
But experts say the reasons that years of aid have not curbed migration run far deeper than that. In particular, they note that much of the money is handed over to American companies, which swallow a lot of it for salaries, expenses and profits, often before any services are delivered.
Record numbers of Central American children and families were crossing, fleeing gang violence and widespread hunger.
independent studies have found.
“All activities funded with U.S.A.I.D.’s foreign assistance benefit countries and people overseas, even if managed through agreements with U.S.-based organizations,” said Mileydi Guilarte, a deputy assistant administrator at U.S.A.I.D. working on Latin America funding.
But the government’s own assessments don’t always agree. After evaluating five years of aid spending in Central America, the Government Accountability Office rendered a blunt assessment in 2019: “Limited information is available about how U.S. assistance improved prosperity, governance, and security.”
One U.S.A.I.D. evaluation of programs intended to help Guatemalan farmers found that from 2006 to 2011, incomes rose less in the places that benefited from U.S. aid than in similar areas where there was no intervention.
Mexico has pushed for a more radical approach, urging the United States to give cash directly to Central Americans affected by two brutal hurricanes last year. But there’s also a clear possibility — that some may simply use the money to pay a smuggler for the trip across the border.
The farmers of San Antonio Huista say they know quite well what will keep their children from migrating. Right now, the vast majority of people here make their money by selling green, unprocessed coffee beans to a few giant Guatemalan companies. This is a fine way to put food on the table — assuming the weather cooperates — but it doesn’t offer much more than subsistence living.
Farmers here have long dreamed of escaping that cycle by roasting their own coffee and selling brown beans in bags to American businesses and consumers, which brings in more money.
“Instead of sending my brother, my father, my son to the United States, why not send my coffee there, and get paid in dollars?” said Esteban Lara, the leader of a local coffee cooperative.
But when they begged a U.S. government program for funding to help develop such a business, Ms. Monzón said, they were told “the money is not designed to be invested in projects like that.”
These days, groups of her neighbors are leaving for the United States every month or two. So many workers have abandoned this town that farmers are scrambling to find laborers to harvest their coffee.
One of Ms. Monzón’s oldest employees, Javier López Pérez, left with his 14-year-old son in 2019, during the last big wave of Central American migration to the United States. Mr. López said he was scaling the border wall with his son when he fell and broke his ankle.
“My son screamed, ‘Papi, no!’ and I said to him, ‘Keep going, my son,’” Mr. López said. He said his son made it to the United States, while he returned to San Antonio Huista alone.
His family was then kicked out of their home, which Mr. López had given as collateral to the person who smuggled him to the border. The house they moved into was destroyed by the two hurricanes that hit Guatemala late last year.
Ms. Monzón put Mr. López in one of her relatives’ houses, then got the community to cobble together money to pay for enough cinder blocks to build the family a place to live.
While mixing cement to bind the blocks together, one of Mr. López’s sons, Vidal, 19, confessed that he had been talking to a smuggler about making the same journey that felled his father, who was realistic at the prospect.
“I told him, ‘Son, we suffered hunger and thirst along the way, and then look at what happened to me, look at what I lost,’” Mr. López said, touching his still-mangled ankle. “But I can’t tell him what to do with his life — he’s a man now.”
As inoculations help a sense of normalcy return in the lives of many Americans, much of the world remains gripped by the pandemic, with little hope that a significant number of vaccine doses will be made available soon.
The effort to vaccinate enough of the world’s population to get the virus under control — already a huge struggle, experts said — was set back again this week after the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, signaled that it would not be able to export doses until the end of the year.
The Serum Institute’s manufacturing capacity is at the heart of Covax, a global effort to vaccinate the populations of low- and middle-income countries. The program is already more than 140 million doses behind schedule, and the Serum Institute announcement suggested that its goal of two billion doses by the end of the year would be all but impossible to meet.
Dr. Arthur Reingold, chief of the epidemiology division at the University of California, Berkeley, said that the delay was “not surprising, given the drastic situation” in India, which has been pummeled by the virus in recent weeks.
devastating second wave of coronavirus infections, the institute has diverted all its manufacturing powers to domestic needs, falling behind on commitments to the Covax partnership as well as on bilateral commercial deals with many countries.
“It simply means that poor countries of the world, the low- and middle-income countries of the world,” Dr. Reingold said, “are going to have to wait longer to come anywhere close to the kind of vaccination coverage that we’ve achieved in some of the wealthier countries.”
About 48 percent of people in the United States have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to federal data on Wednesday. In the United Kingdom, the figure is 54 percent, and in Germany, nearly 38 percent, according to the Our World in Data project at Oxford University.
But only 10 percent of people in India have received a dose of the vaccine. Just over 1 percent of people in Honduras have received a shot, and less than 1 percent have been at least partially vaccinated in Somalia.
100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine were now on hold as regulators checked them for possible contamination.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been viewed by public health officials as an important tool to vaccinate populations that are more difficult to reach, because it requires only one dose and does not need the special low-temperature storage required by the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
The rate of vaccinations in the United States has slowed considerably in recent weeks, though about 1.8 million doses are being administered to Americans each day on average, according to a New York Times database.
President Biden announced on Monday that the United States would send 20 million doses of the three vaccines abroad. The 100 million Johnson & Johnson doses under inspection could pad the American stockpile, or be sent to help meet the dire need abroad.
Still, Dr. Reingold said that it was “time well spent” to “very carefully look at those doses and ensure that they’re safe and effective.”
Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company, said on Monday that it would move the experimental Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with GlaxoSmithKline into a late-stage trial after the shot produced strong immune responses in volunteers in a mid-stage study.
The findings are encouraging news for a vaccine that has fallen behind in development and has so far disappointed those expecting that it would be crucial in combating the pandemic. If the vaccine can become available in the last three months of this year, as its developers hope, it could still play a central role as a booster shot as well as an initial inoculation in the developing world, where the pace of vaccination is lagging.
The vaccine hit a major setback in December, when its developers announced that it did not appear to work well in older adults and that they would have to delay plans to test it in a Phase 3 trial, the crucial test that will assess the vaccine’s effectiveness.
But the companies modified the vaccine and in February began testing it in a Phase 2 study that included more than 700 volunteers in the United States and Honduras between 18 and 95 years old. Sanofi said the vaccine did not raise any safety concerns and produced a strong immune response across age groups, a finding suggesting it has been successfully tweaked.
Sanofi announced the findings in a statement and said it plans to soon publish the results in a medical journal.
Sanofi and GSK are much more experienced in vaccine development than a number of their rivals that have already won authorization. The two companies used a more established approach than those deployed in other, more swiftly developed Covid vaccines. Their shot is based on viral proteins produced with engineered viruses that grow inside insect cells. GSK is supplying the Sanofi vaccine with an adjuvant, an ingredient used in many vaccines meant to boost the immune response.
Sanofi and GSK’s vaccine was one of six selected for funding from Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to accelerate vaccine development. Last summer, the federal government agreed to give the companies $2.1 billion to develop and manufacture the vaccine, in exchange for 100 million doses once the shot was ready.
Sanofi also has supply deals with the European Union and Canada. It has also agreed to supply 200 million doses to Covax, the program to deliver vaccines to middle- and lower-income countries that has been struggling with a shortfall in expected doses. Sanofi has also announced plans to help manufacture the authorized vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Sanofi said its Phase 3 trial of its vaccine will begin in the coming weeks and enroll more than 35,000 adult volunteers around the world. It will test two formulations of the vaccine, one aimed at preventing the original strain of the virus and the other aimed at the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa that some vaccines appear to be less effective against.
Su-Peing Ng, Sanofi’s global head of medical for vaccines, told journalists on Monday that the company expects it to be “operationally quite challenging” to enroll unvaccinated participants in the Phase 3 trial as vaccination coverage increases in many nations. Still, she said, vaccine doses are still scarce in many parts of the world, pointing to Latin America and Asia as places where the company may look to enroll volunteers.
The company said that soon after starting the Phase 3 trial it plans to assess whether its vaccine can boost immune responses in people who had been vaccinated months before with authorized vaccines. Those booster studies are expected to enroll volunteers in well-vaccinated parts of the world, including the United States and Europe.
Sanofi and GSK said last year they were preparing to be able to make 1 billion doses annually. Thomas Triomphe, Sanofi’s global head of vaccines, said on Monday that the company’s production this year, if its vaccine is shown to work, would depend on the world’s needs.
The vaccine, he said, has “potential to be a booster of choice for many nations and many different platforms.”
For the past three years, David and his son, Adelso, have communicated only by phone. Adelso is just one of about 5,500 children who was taken from a parent, as a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy. They’re among more than 1,000 families who have been waiting for the Biden administration to follow through on a promise to reunify them. Now there is a new sense of hope as the Biden government starts to reunite a handful of families. But David and Adelso’s story — split between Guatemala and Florida — offers a firsthand look at the continuing psychological effects of separation … … and how the delay in reuniting families has in some cases encouraged people to make a desperate trek back to the U.S. David and his son spoke with us on condition that we not use their full names and conceal their identities. Since he was jailed and deported, David has kept a low profile in the countryside, evading the gangs he says extorted the trucking business he worked for and threatened his family before they fled to the U.S. David was deported to Guatemala after serving 30 days in U.S. prison for the crime of illegal reentry. Neither David, his wife or their other children have seen Adelso since. “We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.” Days after he took office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to reunify families separated under the Trump administration. “The re-establishment of the interagency task force and the reunification of families.” This week, as migrant apprehensions approached the highest level in 20 years, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would bring four mothers to the U.S. to reunite with their children. The U.S. will reunify another 35 or so families in the coming weeks as part of a pilot project, which David and Adelso might be a part of. But this is just a start, and the process for reunifying all families could take months, and even years. In David’s town of several thousand people, I found three other parents who were forcibly separated from their children under “zero tolerance.” Melvin Jacinto and his 14-year-old son tried to enter the U.S. to look for work that would pay for, among other things, his daughter’s hip surgery. Melvin and his wife, Marta’s son Rosendo, now lives with a relative in Minneapolis. They, too, rely on video calls to stay connected. The reality is that work is really scarce here. Melvin takes what jobs he can find, but the family relies on money sent from Rosendo, their teenage son, who’s now working in the U.S. We visited the homes of two other fathers who were separated from their kids at the border and were told they’d already made the return trip to reunite with them. She allowed me to speak with her husband on her phone. He said he reunited with his son in Fort Lauderdale, and was staying in a house with other migrants. We heard of other parents as well, deported to Guatemala and Honduras, who’d already made the perilous journey to reunite with their children. According to immigration lawyers, about 1,000 separated kids have yet to see their parents again. They’ve had to grow up fast, placed in the care of foster families or relatives. For the last three years, Adelso has been living with his aunt, Teresa Quiñónez, in Boca Raton, Fla. He’s been attending school, and plays soccer in his spare time, but he still struggles with the trauma of what happened in Guatemala and at the border. Unlike some of the separated kids, Adelso does have support. “Yes, definitely, I would go there in the morning, too Yeah —” His aunt Teresa came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor, and later became a legal resident. She stepped in to give Adelso the care she didn’t have when she came to the U.S. as a teenager. “I can say that I understand his pain, not being with mom and dad. Living with someone familiar, somehow — still, it’s not the same.” Once a month, Adelso talks with a child psychologist at Florida State University’s Center for Child Stress and Health. The service is paid through a government settlement for families separated under the “zero tolerance” policy. Adelso is one of several children affected by “zero tolerance” that Natalia Falcon now works with in South Florida. “I’ve been working with Adelso and his family for a little bit over six months. We see a lot of sleeping issues. You know, they can’t sleep, they can’t fall asleep or the nightmares, right. We have to look at nightmares very delicately, Those recurring memories, flashbacks of that traumatic event as one of the main symptoms of P.T.S.D. Studies show that childhood trauma, left unaddressed, can negatively affect health and relationships long into adulthood. “I don’t want him to get depressed, taking him to that place, like, ‘Oh, I just want to be alone.’ That’s why I try to bring him out and do things with him.” After being separated from his dad, Adelso spent two months in a New York shelter with other separated kids before Teresa finally won his release. “I still remember seeing him coming out of the airport. His little face, like — it’s heartbreaking, and sometimes I see him now, he has grown so much in this, in this time that he came here, he has become so mature and that’s hard to see too because it’s like life pushing you to be that mature. You are not enjoying your being a child.” For now, Adelso and David continue to work with their lawyers and hope to be part of the first wave of reunions. As for David, he told us that he can only wait so long, and that he has also considered paying a smuggler to cross back into the U.S. and claim asylum again.
HUEHUETENANGO, Guatemala — In a small village in the Guatemalan highlands, a father smiled into the tiny screen of a cellphone and held up a soccer jersey for the camera, pointing to the name emblazoned on the back: Adelso.
In Boca Raton, Fla., on the other end of the video chat, his son — Adelso — started to cry.
“I’ll send it to you,” the father, David, said during the call in March. “You need to be strong. We’re going to hug and talk together again. Everything’s going to be fine.”
migrant children who are in the United States but separated from their parents, according to lawyers working on the issue. There are at least another 445 who were taken from parents who have not been located.
The separated families received a jolt of hope in early February when President Biden signed an executive order to reunify the migrant families by bringing the deported parents into the United States.
This week, as migrant apprehensions at the southwest border approach a near 20-year high, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would bring a handful of separated parents to the U.S. in the coming days. The process of reunifying them all could take months or years, and questions remain about what benefits will be offered to each of those families.
Adelso has lived the last three years with his aunt, Teresa Quiñónez, in Boca Raton, Fla., where she works as a real estate agent. She had come to the United States herself at 17, without her parents.
a 2020 investigation by Physicians for Human Rights, many children separated from a parent at the border exhibited symptoms and behavior consistent with trauma: post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder. In some cases, the trauma stemmed partly from experiences in the child’s home country, but researchers found it was likely linked to the separation itself.
Dr. Falcón-Banchs currently treats eight children between the ages of 6 and 16 who were separated from a parent in 2017 and 2018. Five of those children received a diagnosis of PTSD, anxiety and-or depression. Adelso is faring better and has shown resilience and coping skills, she said.
In one case, a boy from Honduras who is now 13 suffered severe anxiety and PTSD after being separated from his mother for several months and placed in foster care. Being reunited with her didn’t improve his condition right away, Falcón-Banchs said.
“When his mom first took him to school in the U.S., his brain responded in such a way that he began screaming and panicking and wanted to leave,” she said. “When he was separated, he was told that he was ‘lost in the system’ and wouldn’t be able to be reunited with his mom. So he was just crying, perhaps because of that association.”
the Trump administration did not track after separation.
And many families whose whereabouts were known have since moved or changed phone numbers, compounding the challenge of possible reunification.
Further complicating the task is that most migrants come from Central America, and three countries there — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have experienced lockdowns during the pandemic, as well as widespread internal displacement from two hurricanes, Eta and Iota.
“We must find every last family and will not stop until we do,” said Lee Gelernt, the lead attorney for immigrant rights at the A.C.L.U.
But the process has been “extremely difficult and slow,” he said, adding that “many of the parents can only be found through on-the-ground searches.”
During a visit to a small Guatemalan town, a Times reporter learned of three parents who said they were forcibly separated from their children by U.S. border officials in 2018 and then deported. Two had already made the perilous return trip to the U.S., spending $15,000 on a journey to reunite with their children in Florida.
“They returned for the kids, because they were left alone there,” said Eusevia Quiñónez, whose husband, Juan Bernardo, left with his older brother for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Jan. 8. “Thank God, they arrived OK.”
Another father, Melvin Jacinto, was contacted by KIND, a children’s defense group, more than a year ago, but he doubts they will be able to help him. He again wants to try to enter the United States to reunite with his son, Rosendo, in Minneapolis and to find work to support his family. He said talking on the phone with his son, who turned 18 last month and from whom he has been separated for three years, is emotionally difficult for him. He can’t help but cry.
“It’s like I’m traumatized or something,” Mr. Jacinto said. “I’m not good. I don’t sleep, not at all.”
Psychologists working with separated families say that family reunification is just one step in the healing process, and that the parents have as much need for mental health counseling as the children. Many parents blame themselves for the separation, and after reunification the children, too, often blame the parents.
David, who has suffered from stress-induced gastritis and other health complications since the separation, said he had also considered hiring a smuggler to get back to the U.S. to reunite with Adelso.
“I need to see my son,” he said. “And he needs me.”
Outraged by a long-ignored slaying in Honduras, lawyers are urging a human rights court in Central America to force governments to better protect transgender people in a region where they are targets.
By Frances Robles
Photographs by Daniele Volpe
In a region where experts put the life expectancy for transgender women at only 30 to 35 years, Vicky Hernández didn’t make it even that long.
Ms. Hernández was 26 when she was found shot in the eye on a Honduras street, a slug of unknown caliber and a used condom beside her body.
Twelve years later, investigators still have not run forensic tests on that evidence. It is still not clear whether the authorities ever performed an autopsy. And two other transgender women who reported having witnessed a police patrol car roll up to Ms. Hernández just before she ran off and went missing were themselves killed within a year of her death.
the Hernández case puts a spotlight on a pattern of abuse against vulnerable people in Honduras, it is being closely watched in a region where many countries remain hostile toward transgender people.
The court, based in Costa Rica, could order the Honduran government to enact measures designed to prevent violence against transgender people, setting a legal precedent in the region.
Ms. Hernández’s murder in San Pedro Sula was among the first of an explosion of killings of transgender women in Honduras that followed a June 2009 coup in which the country’s president was rousted from bed and exiled.
The next morning, Ms. Hernández, a sex worker, was found dead after a night in which, because of a strict curfew, nobody but law enforcement and military authorities were supposed to be roaming the streets.
highest rate of murders of transgender and other gender diverse people in the world, with Brazil and Mexico close behind.
Sin Violencia LGBTI, a regional information network.
In Brazil last year, 175 transgender women were killed, according to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals. Already in 2021, 53 transgender people have been killed, according to the advocacy group, with the youngest victim just 13.
That has made the Vicky Hernández lawsuit of deep interest across the region.
“We are watching very closely as to how the result of the case could impact the situation in the region,” said Bruna Benevides, a researcher for Brazil’s National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals, although she expressed doubt that her country’s conservative president, Jair Bolsonaro, would embrace any rulings that helped transgender people.
Rihanna Ferrera, who lost her run for office in Honduras in 2017 under her male birth name, said the case was important because it could force the government to at least make some tangible improvements, like allowing legal name changes. Ms. Ferrera’s sister, Bessy, who was also transgender, was murdered in 2019.
“After what happened to my sister, I decided not to leave and instead to confront this discrimination, stigma, violence and criminalization,” she said. “We need not to remove people from the danger. We need to confront the state and tell the state: Here we are, and we are in danger. We don’t have to leave. You, as the government, have to solve this.”
MEXICO CITY — The number of migrant children arriving in Mexico and hoping to enter the United States has increased ninefold from January to March this year, the U.N. Children’s Fund said Monday, with an average of 275 minors entering the country every day.
The number of migrant children reported in Mexico rose to 3,500 at the end of March from 380 at the start of the year, according to the Children’s Fund, or UNICEF. The number includes data from Mexico’s National Migration Institute and other official sources, and provides a detailed look into the crisis.
“I was heartbroken to see the suffering of so many young children, including babies, at the Mexican border with the U.S.,” said Jean Gough, UNICEF’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, after wrapping up a five-day visit to Mexico, where he toured the northern border with the United States.
The flow of minors is part of a larger migrant crisis that has left American officials struggling to control the border, with the Biden administration expecting more apprehensions at the frontier this year than at any point in the last two decades.
two powerful back-to-back hurricanes that devastated parts of Honduras and Guatemala last fall.
The estimated 275 migrant children arriving to Mexico each day include both those coming from Central America and those who are being expelled from the United States into Mexico, according to UNICEF.
The U.N. agency found that children represented at least 30 percent of the migrant population in many Mexican shelters. Half of all children at the shelters traveled without their parents, one of the highest proportions ever recorded in Mexico, according to UNICEF.
“Most of the shelter facilities I visited in Mexico are already overcrowded and cannot accommodate the increasing number of children and families migrating northward,” Mr. Gough said.
has warned migrants not to make the journey because the border is closed, the message has not reached the average citizen in Central America. Human smugglers across Central America are preying on those desperate enough to make the trek, offering their services and saying that the migrants will be welcomed into the United States.
federal order known as Title 42, introduced by Donald J. Trump’s administration butkept in place by Mr. Biden. The order justifies rapid expulsions as a health measure amid the pandemic, allowing the United States to skirt its obligations to asylum seekers.
The trek from Central America through Mexico is arduous. Families and unaccompanied minors often travel hundreds of miles on foot only to reach Mexico and be robbed, kidnapped for ransom or sexually abused by human smugglers and criminal networks that stalk migrant corridors.
In its statement, UNICEF called for the international community to increase its support to Mexico, to help it expand its shelter network and assistance to migrants.
The U.N. agency also called for member organizations to increase aid to Central America, to improve the living conditions for citizens there so they feel they do not have to migrate. That strategy is also being pursued by Mr. Biden’s administration, which plans to spend $4 billion over the next four years on development programs in the region.
“Central American families aren’t migrating — they are fleeing,” said Mr. Gough.
“The best way to give migrant families a good reason to stay in their communities is to invest in their children’s future at the local level,” he added. “The real child crisis is not at the U.S. border, it’s in the poorest communities of northern Central America and Mexico.”
Honduras has barely begun to recover from two hurricanes that hit late last year. With relatively little disaster relief from the U.S., many are heading for the border.
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Children pry at the dirt with sticks, trying to dig out parts of homes that have sunk below ground. Their parents, unable to feed them, scavenge the rubble for remnants of roofs to sell for scrap metal. They live on top of the mud that swallowed fridges, stoves, beds — their entire lives buried beneath them.
“We are doomed here,” said Magdalena Flores, a mother of seven, standing on a mattress that peeked out from the dirt where her house used to be. “The desperation, the sadness, that’s what makes you migrate.”
People have long left Honduras for the United States, fleeing gang violence, economic misery and the indifference of a government run by a president accused of ties to drug traffickers.
hit a 15-year high, part of a sharp uptick since Mr. Biden took office.
welcoming policies on immigration have drawn people at a time when they are especially desperate to leave.
recently tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to work with Central American leaders to better conditions in those countries.
Still, Mr. Biden has sent a clear message to anyone considering crossing the border in the meantime: “Don’t come over,” Mr. Biden said in a recent interview.
The warning barely registers in parts of Honduras like Chamelecón, a sector of San Pedro Sula that is overrun by gangs and was pounded by both storms. Survivors of the disaster say they have no choice at all.
Months after the hurricanes, houses remain underwater. Gaping holes have replaced bridges. Thousands of people are still displaced, living in shelters or on the street. Hunger is stalking them.
pushed through nearly a billion dollars for the region in the late 1990s in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which killed more people but wrought a comparable level of damage as the recent storms, aid workers say.
Immediate humanitarian aid could certainly help alleviate hunger, homelessness and other crises spurred by the storms, as it seems to have done after Hurricane Mitch.
undermined efforts to change their economies enough to give the poor a reason to stay at home.
embezzled American aid money through sham nonprofits. Mr. Hernández, the nation’s leader since 2014, has denied the allegations and has not been charged. A spokesman did not provide comment.
“We need to be aggressively addressing the levels of despair that the folks hit by these storms are facing,” said Dan Restrepo, a former top adviser to President Obama. “We need to go big now and we need to be loud about it, because that starts actually factoring into the calculus that people face today, which is, ‘Can I survive here or not?’”
People smugglers are already taking advantage of Mr. Biden’s presence in the White House to win new customers. Moving swiftly and loudly, Mr. Biden undid many of the harsh immigration policies pioneered by his predecessor.
Human traffickers in Honduras are enticing clients by promising a much easier journey north, touting Mr. Biden’s refusal to immediately expel children at the border and making grand promises about how friendly the new administration will be, according to interviews with smugglers.
One trafficker outlined his latest pitch to Honduran families thinking about leaving: “They opened everything back up, now you can get in again,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the illegal nature of his work. “If they catch you, they send you to Mexico. It’s not like before, where they sent you back to your country.”
He added that since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, he had sneaked 75 people across the American border illegally.
“Because of the new president, they are opening more doors,” he said. “It’s a free market. That’s how we see it.”
But rather than point to Mr. Biden, many Hondurans first blurt out their own president’s name as a reason to leave home.
Mr. Hernández’s brother was recently sentenced to life in prison by an American court for trafficking cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors said the president provided protection to his brother and other traffickers in exchange for cash.
For many Hondurans, the past few months in particular have provided a searing case study in how little they seem to matter to their government.
Jesus Membreño’s house was sheared off the side of a mountain in the storms, but with nowhere else to go, he built a shelter over a piece of the cement floor that was left behind.
“We received nothing from the government, not even a sheet of metal to replace our roof,” Mr. Membreño said.
He said he would head north alone in the coming weeks.
Residents in Canaan, a section of the Chamelecón suburb that was flattened in the hurricanes, say the government never even sent any tractors to clear the mud. So Ms. Flores and her neighbors are trying to feed their children by carving off pieces of their ruined homes and selling them as scrap metal.
“It’s enough to buy some beans or rice,” she said, traipsing through mud punctuated by the tips of children’s bicycles and other rubble. “No one, not one politician or government, has helped us.”
The first time Ms. Flores tried to get to the United States was after her ex-husband broke into her house and slashed her face and arms with a machete, in 2016, she said. She never made it.
The second time was this January, she said, after living with her children under an improvised tent after the storms damaged her home. The few possessions she had spent years accumulating — her stove, her fridge, her beds, her television — were swallowed by mud.
“It’s the sadness, the disappointment that hits you,” Ms. Flores said, “It’s very hard to see your home buried. I had nothing left.”
With six of her children, she joined the first migrant caravan of this year, in January, she said. They walked for miles, but turned back after barely eating for days and then getting tear-gassed and beaten by the Guatemalan police. That’s when she stopped believing Mr. Biden was going to welcome anyone with open arms.
“If that were the case, why would they have sent me home?” she asked.
So Ms. Flores used parts of her old wooden house to build a shelter on top of the earth that devoured everything she had.
Now she’s waiting for the next caravan to leave, driven not by hope but by despair.
Thousands of children, most from Central America, are making their way to the border, many hoping to meet parents in the United States. But for those caught in Mexico, there is only near-certain deportation.
CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — The children tumbled out of a white van, dazed and tired, rubbing sleep from their eyes.
They had been on their way north, traveling without their parents, hoping to cross the border into the United States.
They never made it.
Detained by Mexican immigration officers, they were brought to a shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, marched in single file and lined up against a wall for processing. For them, this facility about one mile from the border is the closest they will get to the United States.
“‘Mommy, I have bad news for you,’” one of the girls at the shelter, Elizabeth, 13, from Honduras, recalled telling her mother on the phone. “‘Don’t cry, but Mexican immigration caught me.’”
a growing wave of migrants hoping to find a way into the United States. If they make it across the border, they can try to present their case to the American authorities, go to school and one day find work and help relatives back home. Some can reunite with parents waiting there.
But for those caught before crossing the border, the long road north ends in Mexico.
If they are from elsewhere in the country, as a growing number are because of the economic toll of the pandemic, they can be picked up by a relative and taken home.
But most of them are from Central America, propelled north by a life made unsustainable by poverty, violence, natural disasters and the pandemic, and encouraged by the Biden administration’s promise to take a more generous approach to immigration.
They will wait in shelters in Mexico, often for months, for arrangements to be made. Then, they will be deported.
by the thousands.
“There is a big flow, for economic reasons, and it will not stop until people’s lives in these countries improve,” said José Alfredo Villa, the director of the Nohemí Álvarez Quillay shelter for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez.
In 2018, 1,318 children were admitted into shelters for unaccompanied minors in Ciudad Juárez, the local authorities said. By 2019, the number of admissions had grown to 1,510 children, though it dipped to 928 last year because of the pandemic.
But in the first two and a half months of this year, the number has soared to 572 — a rate that, if kept up for the rest of the year, would far surpass 2019, the highest year on record.
When children enter the shelter, their schooling stops, the staff unable to provide classes for so many children coming from different countries and different educational backgrounds. Instead, the children fill their days with art classes, where they often draw or paint photos of their home countries. They watch television, play in the courtyard or complete chores to help the shelter run, like laundry.
71 percent of all cases involving unaccompanied minors resulted in deportation orders. But many never turn up for their hearings; they dodge the authorities and slip into the population, to live lives of evasion.
Ecuadorean girl who died by suicide at another shelter in Juárez in 2014 after being detained. She was 12, and on her way to reunite with parents who had lived in the Bronx since she was a toddler.
In mid-March, two weeks after her arrival, Elizabeth celebrated her 13th birthday at the shelter.
As shelter staff cut the cake for Elizabeth — the children are prohibited from handling sharp objects — three more children were dropped off by the immigration authorities, just hours after the eight who had arrived that morning. They watched cartoons as they waited for shelter officials to register them.
Elizabeth’s best friend since she arrived, Yuliana, 15, was by her side, apprehended by the Mexican authorities in December when she tried to cross the border carrying her 2-year-old cousin and tugging on the hand of her 4-year-old cousin. Yuliana is from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, one of the most violence-wracked cities in the world.
Both girls said they had seen a parent struggle to put food on the table before making the tough decision to migrate to the United States. And both felt that their failure to cross had upturned the tremendous expectations that had been placed on them: to reunite with a lonely parent, to work and to send money to family members left behind.
For the girls, home is not a place — Honduras or the United States. Home is where their families are. That is where they want to be.
“My dream is to get ahead and raise my family,” Yuliana said. “It is the first thing, to help my mother and my brothers. My family.”
The day she left San Pedro Sula to join her father in Florida, she said, her mother made her promise one thing.
“She asked me never to forget her,” Yuliana said. “And I answered that I could never, because I was leaving for her.”
The brother of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday after he was convicted on drug-trafficking charges in a trial that underscored allegations the president has helped turn Honduras into a violent narco-state.
Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernández was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel, who said there were no mitigating circumstances to lighten the sentence of the former Honduran legislator. The judge said that Mr. Hernández had acted as a facilitator, providing bribes to politicians in the impoverished Central American nation, including President Hernández.
Evidence at the trial in Manhattan federal court showed that Juan Antonio Hernández had smuggled some 185 tons of cocaine to the U.S. during a career spanning at least 11 years. He was convicted in October 2019.
“Here, the trafficking was indeed state-sponsored,” said Judge Castel, reading a statement as he imposed the sentence. He noted that Juan Antonio Hernández had brazenly stamped his initials “T.H.” for Tony Hernández on the cocaine he imported to the U.S. The judge also ordered him to forfeit $138.5 million.
Analysts say that the life sentence for the president’s brother is another reminder that Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, poses a major problem for President Biden as he tries to stop a surge of migrants from the region. Biden officials have said that fighting corruption in Central America is key to their efforts to reduce migration flows.