Last Guatemalan deportees from US in 2022 arrive home amid broken dreams

Guatemala City, Dec 29 (EFE).- The last flight of this year carrying Guatemalans deported from the United States arrived Thursday in the Central American country with 80 migrants on board, most of them with broken dreams and debts, but retaining the desire to try again – eventually – to find the “American Dream.”

“I’m sad because we have the dream of getting our families ahead, but they grabbed us at the border,” Tomas Quimchoc, one of the 80 Guatemalans deported from Harlingen, Texas, told EFE.

“I will spend the New Year with my family and then I’ll make my fourth attempt to cross the US border,” the 31-year-old from Peten province added.

Like Quimchoc, most of the deportees who arrived in Guatemala on Thursday worked in the agricultural sector in rural parts of the Central American country before making the decision to try and get to the US to seek better living conditions and job opportunities.

The deportees spent between five and 20 days at a detention center in Texas and were returned to Guatemala under Title 42, the public health measure currently used by the US to immediately deport illegal migrants, according to the Guatemalan Immigration Institute (IGM).

“It’s complicated to be detained in the US. If we had any questions (about anything), nobody responded to us, and I had no communication with my family,” 20-year-old Mario Alvarez told EFE, adding that he’d spent $11,000 trying to get into the US.

Alvarez said that he would look for a better job in Guatemala to be able to pay the debt he accumulated in paying for the journey to the US, but he added that for the moment he has no intention of trying to emigrate again, due to the dangers he faced along the northward route through Mexico.

In 2022, the US deported to Guatemala a total of 40,633 people on 368 flights, an increase of 128 percent compared with 2021, when 17,886 illegal migrants were returned to that country, according to official figures.

Among the 40,633 people returned this year have been 7,909 minors, 200 of them unaccompanied by an adult.

In all, between deportations from Mexico and the US, 94,123 migrants have been returned to Guatemala by air and land in 2022, although figures have not yet been collected for the three last days of the year.

The spread of Covid-19 in 2020 and 2021 motivated the US government under then-President Donald Trump to implement Title 42, ostensibly as a public health measure to keep migrants from bringing the coronavirus into the US. That policy was kept in place by the Joe Biden administration, but recently a federal district court judge ruled that it was being applied in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and should be overturned.

The US Supreme Court, however, issued a ruling to keep Title 42 in place temporarily so that it may review the case filed by 19 state attorneys general to maintain the policy, and a definitive ruling on the matter by the high court is anticipated by June 2023.

In 2020 and 2021, the number of deportees from the US declined but the figures for 2022 have risen much closer to the pre-pandemic figure of 54,599 migrants who were deported back to Guatemala in 2019.

Some three million Guatemalans live in the US, most of them without papers, the local Foreign Ministry estimates, and each year more than 300,000 people try to get to the US to flee the poverty and violence besetting their homeland.

EFE -/bp

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