Joe Biden official tells Honduran migrant caravan to stop heading to the U.S.

A Joe Biden official has told the Honduran migrant caravan heading to the United States to stop their journey because ‘things at the border won’t change overnight’.   

Guatemalan security forces on Sunday used sticks and tear gas to beat back the group just days before the advent of a new U.S. administration, which urged travelers to abandon their travel. Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities say. 

The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a priority of his administration. The incoming administration say they will work to address the root causes of migration, expand lawful pathways and rethink asylum processing.

But a senior source told NBC: ‘The situation at the border isn’t going to be transformed overnight. [They] need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately. There’s help on the way, but now is not the time to make the journey.’

The official, who was not named, did not comment when asylum seekers might be able to enter the U.S. or whether they will be detained ahead of a court hearing.  They said those already waiting at the border will be a priority. 

‘We have to provide a message that health and hope is on the way, but coming right now does not make sense for their own safety… while we put into place processes that they may be able to access in the future,’ the source added. 

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Guatemalan soldiers and policemen form a human barricade to stop Honduran migrants walking on a highway near to Chiquimula, Guatemala Sunday. Guatemalan security forces detained and violently reprimanded a migrant caravan

Guatemalan soldiers and policemen form a human barricade to stop Honduran migrants walking on a highway near to Chiquimula, Guatemala Sunday. Guatemalan security forces detained and violently reprimanded a migrant caravan

Guatemalan soldiers and policemen form a human barricade to stop Honduran migrants walking on a highway near to Chiquimula, Guatemala Sunday. Guatemalan security forces detained and violently reprimanded a migrant caravan

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Guatemalan authorities estimated that as many as 9,000 Honduran migrants crossed into Guatemala as part of an effort to form a new caravan to reach the U.S. border

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Guatemalan authorities estimated that as many as 9,000 Honduran migrants crossed into Guatemala as part of an effort to form a new caravan to reach the U.S. border

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Guatemalan authorities estimated that as many as 9,000 Honduran migrants crossed into Guatemala as part of an effort to form a new caravan to reach the U.S. border

A Joe Biden official on Sunday told the Honduran migrant caravan heading to the United States, pictured Saturday, to stop their journey because they will not be let in

A Joe Biden official on Sunday told the Honduran migrant caravan heading to the United States, pictured Saturday, to stop their journey because they will not be let in

A Joe Biden official on Sunday told the Honduran migrant caravan heading to the United States, pictured Saturday, to stop their journey because they will not be let in

A Honduran migrant is tended to by Guatemalan soldiers after they clashed with them in a bid to reach the U.S. border in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. Guatemalan security forces used sticks and tear gas to beat back the group just days before the advent of a new U.S. administration, which urged travelers to abandon their travel

A Honduran migrant is tended to by Guatemalan soldiers after they clashed with them in a bid to reach the U.S. border in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. Guatemalan security forces used sticks and tear gas to beat back the group just days before the advent of a new U.S. administration, which urged travelers to abandon their travel

A Honduran migrant is tended to by Guatemalan soldiers after they clashed with them in a bid to reach the U.S. border in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. Guatemalan security forces used sticks and tear gas to beat back the group just days before the advent of a new U.S. administration, which urged travelers to abandon their travel

Injured women, part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border, weep as they sit on the side of a highway after clashing with Guatemalan police and soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Guatemala, Sunday

Injured women, part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border, weep as they sit on the side of a highway after clashing with Guatemalan police and soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Guatemala, Sunday

Injured women, part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border, weep as they sit on the side of a highway after clashing with Guatemalan police and soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Guatemala, Sunday

A second Biden transition official, speaking on background, said: ‘Overcoming the challenges created by the chaotic and cruel policies of the last four years, and those presented by COVID-19, will take time.

‘In the meantime, the journey to the United States remains extraordinarily dangerous, and those in the region should not believe anyone peddling the lie that our border will be open to everyone next month.’    

The migrants are fleeing poverty and violence in a region hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November.

Footage shows a large section of the caravan clashed early on Sunday with Guatemalan security officials, some 3,000 of whom had mustered by the village of Vado Hondo, about 34 miles from the borders of Honduras and El Salvador. 

‘We want the Guatemalans to let us past,’ said Joaquin Ortiz, a Honduran in the caravan. ‘Because we’re not leaving here. We’re going to carry on. I want to get through because it’s horrible in our country. There’s nothing in Honduras.’

Guatemalan soldiers block part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border, in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a priority of his administration

Guatemalan soldiers block part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border, in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a priority of his administration

Guatemalan soldiers block part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border, in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. The first migrant caravan of the year comes less than a week before Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump, who made cracking down on illegal immigration a priority of his administration

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. A senior Biden source told NBC : 'The situation at the border isn't going to be transformed overnight'

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. A senior Biden source told NBC : 'The situation at the border isn't going to be transformed overnight'

Honduran migrants clash with Guatemalan soldiers in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, Sunday. A senior Biden source told NBC : ‘The situation at the border isn’t going to be transformed overnight’

The coronavirus pandemic has battered Honduras' economy, which last year suffered its worst contraction on record. Guatemalan police agents block part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border Sunday

The coronavirus pandemic has battered Honduras' economy, which last year suffered its worst contraction on record. Guatemalan police agents block part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border Sunday

The coronavirus pandemic has battered Honduras’ economy, which last year suffered its worst contraction on record. Guatemalan police agents block part of a Honduran migrant caravan in their bid to reach the U.S. border Sunday

The coronavirus pandemic has battered Honduras’ economy, which last year suffered its worst contraction on record.

Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump

Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump

Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday promising to adopt a more humane approach to migration than Donald Trump

The large contingent of Guatemalan security officers managed to stop the migrants from advancing beyond Vado Hondo, with perhaps as many as half of the people in the caravan dispersing into the nearby hills or heading back the way they came, according to a Reuters witness.

Elmer Espinal is traveling with his months-old daughter. He said they were tear gassed by the Guatemalan security forces.

‘My daughter almost choked,’ said Espinal, a Honduran native. ‘I want a future for my girls … there’s no work over there in Honduras.’

Authorities sent buses and trucks for migrants who wanted to voluntarily return home.

Even if the migrants do get past, Mexico is preparing to stop them at its southern border with hundreds of security forces, arguing it must contain the spread of the virus.

Video footage shared by the Guatemalan government showed hundreds of migrants, bounded by a hillside, pressing into a wall of security forces, which used sticks to repel the surge. An unspecified number of people were injured, authorities said.

During the chaotic melee, security forces fired off a tear gas canister and used a stun grenade to disperse the crowd, a Reuters photographer said.

Between Friday and Saturday, Guatemala had sent back almost 1,000 migrants entering from Honduras, the Guatemalan government said, as the caravan tried to advance toward Mexico.

On Saturday evening, the Mexican foreign ministry pressed Central American authorities to halt the caravan’s progress, pointing to the need to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Mexico, it said, was committed to orderly and regulated migration and would oppose any form of unauthorized entry.

A health official said several of the Honduran migrants were injured after being struck in a confrontation with police in Guatemala. Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities say, fleeing poverty and violence in a region hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November

A health official said several of the Honduran migrants were injured after being struck in a confrontation with police in Guatemala. Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities say, fleeing poverty and violence in a region hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November

A health official said several of the Honduran migrants were injured after being struck in a confrontation with police in Guatemala. Between 7,000 and 8,000 migrants, including families with young children, have entered Guatemala since Friday, authorities say, fleeing poverty and violence in a region hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes in November

Honduran migrants, part of a caravan seeking to reach the US, get a ride on a truck in Camotan, Guatemala on Saturday

Honduran migrants, part of a caravan seeking to reach the US, get a ride on a truck in Camotan, Guatemala on Saturday

Honduran migrants, part of a caravan seeking to reach the US, get a ride on a truck in Camotan, Guatemala on Saturday 

Honduran migrants rest on the side of the road near a police roadblock at a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala Sunday

Honduran migrants rest on the side of the road near a police roadblock at a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala Sunday

Honduran migrants rest on the side of the road near a police roadblock at a highway in Vado Hondo, Guatemala Sunday

Mexican and Central American authorities have coordinated security and public health measures in a bid to deter mass movement of people across the region.

On Saturday Guatemalan soldiers blocked part of a caravan of Honduran migrants at a point not far from where they entered the country seeking to reach the U.S. border.

The soldiers, many wearing helmets and wielding shields and sticks, formed ranks across a highway in Chiquimula, near the Honduras border, to block the procession of migrants.

Guatemala’s immigration agency distributed a video showing a couple of hundred men scuffling with soldiers, pushing and running through their lines, even as troops held hundreds more back.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei issued a statement calling on Honduran authorities ‘to contain the mass exit of its inhabitants.’ On Friday, the migrants entered Guatemala by pushing past about 2,000 police and soldiers posted at the border; most entered without showing the negative coronavirus test that Guatemala requires.

‘The government of Guatemala regrets this violation of national sovereignty and calls on the governments of Central America to take measures to avoid putting their inhabitants at risk amid the health emergency due to the pandemic,’ Giammattei’s statement continued.

Guatemala has set up almost a dozen control points on highways, and may start busing more migrants back to Honduras, as it has done before, arguing they pose a risk to themselves and others by travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Belongings of Honduran migrants remain next to soldiers of the Guatemalan Army after clash at Vado Hondo Sunday

Belongings of Honduran migrants remain next to soldiers of the Guatemalan Army after clash at Vado Hondo Sunday

Belongings of Honduran migrants remain next to soldiers of the Guatemalan Army after clash at Vado Hondo Sunday 

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei issued a statement calling on Honduran authorities 'to contain the mass exit of its inhabitants.' On Friday, the migrants entered Guatemala by pushing past about 2,000 police and soldiers posted at the border; most entered without showing the negative coronavirus test that Guatemala requires

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei issued a statement calling on Honduran authorities 'to contain the mass exit of its inhabitants.' On Friday, the migrants entered Guatemala by pushing past about 2,000 police and soldiers posted at the border; most entered without showing the negative coronavirus test that Guatemala requires

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei issued a statement calling on Honduran authorities ‘to contain the mass exit of its inhabitants.’ On Friday, the migrants entered Guatemala by pushing past about 2,000 police and soldiers posted at the border; most entered without showing the negative coronavirus test that Guatemala requires

Guatemala has set up almost a dozen control points on highways, and may start busing more migrants back to Honduras, as it has done before, arguing they pose a risk to themselves and others by travelling during the coronavirus pandemic

Guatemala has set up almost a dozen control points on highways, and may start busing more migrants back to Honduras, as it has done before, arguing they pose a risk to themselves and others by travelling during the coronavirus pandemic

Guatemala has set up almost a dozen control points on highways, and may start busing more migrants back to Honduras, as it has done before, arguing they pose a risk to themselves and others by travelling during the coronavirus pandemic

Governments throughout the region have made it clear they will not let the caravan through.

Mexico continued to drill thousands of National Guard members and immigration agents on its southern border, in a show of force meant to to discourage the caravan from crossing into Mexico.

On Friday night, two groups of more than 3,000 Honduran migrants each pushed their way into Guatemala without registering, part of a larger migrant caravan that had left the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula before dawn. A third group entered Guatemala Saturday. 

They migrants set out at about 4 a.m. from San Pedro Sula, young men and entire families carrying sleeping children. Some quickly caught rides while others walked along the highway escorted by police.

Mainor Garcia, a 19-year-old laborer from San Pedro Sula, carried a purple knapsack as he walked along the highway early Friday. He said he was scared about the journey, but willing to run the risk. ‘(Hurricanes) Eta and Iota destroyed all of our homes,’ he said.

‘There’s no choice’ but to leave, said 25-year-old Oscar Zaldivar, a driver from Cofradia. ‘You have to leave here, this country because we’re going to die here.’

A Honduran migrant woman carries a child on her back as they travel with other migrants by foot along a highway in Chiquimula, Guatemala, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in hopes of reaching the U.S. border

A Honduran migrant woman carries a child on her back as they travel with other migrants by foot along a highway in Chiquimula, Guatemala, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in hopes of reaching the U.S. border

A Honduran migrant woman carries a child on her back as they travel with other migrants by foot along a highway in Chiquimula, Guatemala, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, in hopes of reaching the U.S. border

A new group of approximately three thousand Honduran migrants arrives in Guatemala, after crossing the border point of El Florido, in Camotan on Saturday

A new group of approximately three thousand Honduran migrants arrives in Guatemala, after crossing the border point of El Florido, in Camotan on Saturday

A new group of approximately three thousand Honduran migrants arrives in Guatemala, after crossing the border point of El Florido, in Camotan on Saturday 

Honduran police officers are deployed in the Honduras-Guatemala border at a checkpoint during the arrival of the migrant caravan on Saturday

Honduran police officers are deployed in the Honduras-Guatemala border at a checkpoint during the arrival of the migrant caravan on Saturday

Honduran police officers are deployed in the Honduras-Guatemala border at a checkpoint during the arrival of the migrant caravan on Saturday 

Migrants break a police barricade as they attempt to enter Guatemala at the border checkpoint on Saturday

Migrants break a police barricade as they attempt to enter Guatemala at the border checkpoint on Saturday

Migrants break a police barricade as they attempt to enter Guatemala at the border checkpoint on Saturday 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement Friday that ‘The combination of COVID-19, social exclusion, violence and climate-related disasters that occur at the same time with a magnitude seldom seen before in Central America raises new humanitarian challenges.’

The migrants leave with little certainty about how far they will make it. Regional governments have recently appeared more united than ever in stopping their progress.

Francisco Garduño Yáñez, head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, said in a statement Friday that his country has ‘to guarantee our national territory’ and called for ‘an orderly, safe and legal migration with respect for human rights and with humanitarian policies.’

On Wednesday, the 11-nation Regional Conference on Migration ‘expressed concern over the exposure of irregular migrants to situations of high risk to their health and their lives, primarily during the health emergency.’

On Thursday, Mexican officials said they had discussed migration with U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and discussed a possible program for the development of northern Central America and southern Mexico ‘in response to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic and the recent hurricanes in the region.’

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