In a new piece for the New York Times, Natalie Kitroeff details the devastation caused by natural disasters in Honduras that compound existing economic and food insecurity crises, exacerbate the need for immediate humanitarian aid and a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation as part of a longer term broad regional stability approach to stemming migration from Central America.
Kitroeff’s reporting is closely aligned with recent comments from the Senior Adviser and Chief Spokesperson to the Vice President Symone Sanders on USAID’s Announcement on the Northern Triangle that highlights “The citizens of these countries are still suffering from the effects of two devastating hurricanes and the ongoing global pandemic.”
As the Biden-Harris administration builds momentum for humanitarian relief in the Northern Triangle region, TPS is a vital tool at the Administration’s disposal to help stabilize the region and address the root causes of migration.
The article is excerpted below and can be read in full here:
“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.
Then last fall, two hurricanes hit impoverished areas of Honduras in rapid succession, striking more than four million people across the nation — nearly half the population — and leveling entire neighborhoods.
“People aren’t migrating; they’re fleeing,” said César Ramos, of the Mennonite Social Action Commission, a group providing aid to people affected by the storms. “These people have lost everything, even their hope.”
President Biden has insisted that the recent increase in migration to the United States is nothing out of the ordinary, just another peak in a long history of them, especially in months when the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border is cooler and more passable.
…The majority of families and unaccompanied children are coming from Honduras and Guatemala, the two countries hit hardest by the hurricanes — a sign that the president’s more welcoming policies on immigration have drawn people at a time when they are especially desperate to leave.
“It’s a detonating event that is in its own right massive,” Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, said of the storms. “An event like the Covid recession, plus two hurricanes, and the potential for an even bigger spike is so much stronger.”
…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.
“I never wanted to do this,” said Ana Hernández, clutching her 11-year-old son’s hand at a gas station in San Pedro Sula, the economic capital of Honduras. “The situation is forcing me to. You get to a point where you don’t have anything to give them to eat.”
…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.
But it is much harder to prove that funding sent in the past to improve conditions in Central America has reduced migration, experts say, in part because corrupt politicians and elites have siphoned off the money or undermined efforts to change their economies enough to give the poor a reason to stay at home.
…“We need to be aggressively addressing the levels of despair that the folks hit by these storms are facing,” said Dan Restrepo, who was a top adviser to President Barack 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?’”
…“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.
…Now she’s waiting for the next caravan to leave, driven not by hope but by despair.”