Four weeks ago, I was flying back from our 10-day trip to Honduras. Today, we’ve managed to write and lay out a graphical report about what we learned.
Here’s the summary in English. The much more interesting full report, again, is here.
Halfway to the U.S.: A Report from Honduras on Migration
- Four current and former WOLA staff members—Adam Isacson, Maureen Meyer, Ana Lucia Verduzco, and Joy Olson—visited Honduras from April 26th to May 5th, 2023.
- Why we visited: WOLA has done extensive research on the U.S.-Mexico border, throughout Mexico and the Mexico-Guatemala border, and the Darién Gap has begun to draw attention. But the U.S – Mexico border is the end of a long journey, and much of what happens elsewhere along the U.S.-bound migration route is poorly understood. WOLA wants to tell the story of what’s happening at key stages of the migration route because needs are urgent and the region is experiencing unprecedented human mobility.
- What we found: Honduras, like its neighbors, now experiences four kinds of migration:
- Hondurans who are departing
- Hondurans who are internally displaced
- Hondurans deported back from other countries
- International migrants transiting the country
- As everywhere along the migration route, numbers of international migrants passing through the country are up, as the land route from South America has opened up since 2021. Many U.S.-bound migrants are from other continents. To reflect this new reality, humanitarian aid providers call on international and national funding to be more consistent and reliable.
- For migrants transiting Honduras, the country is a “respiro”—a place to catch one’s breath—or even a “sandwich” between arduous and unwelcoming journeys before (Darién Gap, Nicaragua) and after (Guatemala, Mexico).
- This is largely because Honduras is neither deporting nor detaining most migrants, and it has waived a fine that it had been charging for travel documents required to board buses. That fine had left many migrants in Honduras stranded, while providing corrupt authorities with an opportunity for extortion. Upon entry, most migrants now register directly with the government without the need to pay a fee. This reduces opportunities for organized crime. It also makes transiting the country slightly more bearable and provides a more accurate registry of those who enter the country. This “amnesty” policy is a necessary alignment with reality. Honduras should make it permanent, and other countries along the route would do well to emulate aspects of it.
- Migrants—both those transiting Honduras and Honduran migrants departing the country—are traveling with widely varying levels of information about what lies ahead. While some were aware of the “CBP One” app and the significance of May 11, 2023, the day that Title 42 ended, almost no migrants with whom WOLA interacted had clear knowledge of the complex U.S. asylum process. Some did not even know how many more countries remained to cross in the days ahead.
- The United States and Mexico deport 1,500-2,000 Honduran migrants in a typical week. Attention to deported migrants as they arrive in Honduras is supported by the U.S. government, indirectly through international organizations and humanitarian groups. Conditions are relatively dignified and well resourced, despite some serious short-term needs. But assistance with reintegration largely stops at the doors of the reception centers. Security risks are high, but economic and psychosocial needs are the most urgent.
- Upon arrival in Honduras, deported migrants share alarming testimonies about the treatment they receive while in the custody of, and being transported by, U.S. law enforcement agencies. These rarely end up with investigations or discipline because pathways to reporting are often unclear or inaccessible, especially when witnesses are deported.
- International humanitarian officials and Honduran experts joined calls for more clarity and stability in U.S. immigration policy, and simpler access to reliable, current information about existing legal pathways to migration.
- Key reasons Hondurans migrate overlap in complex ways. It is hard to extricate economic need from the security situation as gang extortion has shuttered businesses and depressed economies. Corruption—and impunity for corruption— in turn feed a national malaise and sense of rootlessness or hopelessness that spurs migration. Add to these: discrimination, domestic violence, the effects of climate change, and the need to provide remittances to loved ones.
- WOLA’s time in Honduras was a reminder of the pressing need to find long-term alternatives to mass migration flows. These include community-based and institutional reforms that address the conditions forcing people to leave: poverty, violence, impunity, corruption, persecution, climate change, domestic violence, and a general sense of “rootlessness.”
- Experts and service providers warned against being tempted by quick fixes that promise short-term results at great long-term cost, like the state of emergency and mass incarceration that President Nayib Bukele is carrying out in neighboring El Salvador.