The Guatemalan Migration Institute reports that more than 1,400 unaccompanied minors have been expelled by U.S. authorities to Guatemala since March. The deportations have often taken place before the children are given the opportunity to apply for asylum. In October alone, some 407 children were expelled. (By contrast, 385 unaccompanied children were deported to Guatemala in 2019.) This increase is due to new U.S. migration controls, announced in March in response to the pandemic. Citing the coronavirus, U.S. authorities have invoked laws that allow them to summarily deport people apprehended while trying to cross the border irregularly, without initiating deportation proceedings if there is a health risk (see the United States 10 November update on this platform.) On arrival in Guatemala, child deportees are reported to be placed under the care of the presidency’s social wellbeing secretariat and housed in a shelter in Guatemala city, before being reunited with family members.
Despite the dangers that deportations pose during the pandemic, thousands of Guatemalan nationals have been deported to the country from the United States, even though Guatemalan authorities have raised concerns about the arrival of infected deportees. (On one occasion in April, 70 of 76 deportees from Texas tested positive upon arrival in Guatemala City.) On 4 May, the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry reported that deportees accounted for more than 15 percent of all COVID-19 infections in the country (for more, see 10 June Guatemala update on this platform). As of 12 November, Guatemala had registered more than 113,000 COVID-19 cases, and 3,845 deaths.
- J. Abbott, “US Accused of Using Covid as Excuse to Deny Children Right to Asylum,” The Guardian, 10 November 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/10/us-child-deportations-guatemala-pandemic
- D. Gonzalez, “’They Were Sending the Virus’: Guatemala Reels After U.S. Deports Hundreds of Deportees with COVID-19,” Azcentral, 28 October 2020, https://eu.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/immigration/2020/10/28/hundreds-deported-by-us-to-guatemala-during-pandemic-had-covid-19/5902239002/