United States: does Joe Biden’s arrival in power encourage population displacement?

The images are impressive. Several thousand people gathered in front of a row of men in fatigues and batons who tried to push them back by force before raining blows and tear gas on the crowd. The caravan of Honduran migrants was stopped with rare brutality in Vado Hondo (Guatemala) after a crossing of about fifty kilometers in Guatemalan lands, Sunday, January 17. Leaving Honduras on Friday, the 9,000 asylum seekers, including many families, attempted to reach the United States.

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As Joe Biden’s inauguration dawns, many are hoping to benefit from a more flexible migration regime than under the Trump administration. “Do not waste your time and your money and do not risk your safety or your health”, however, tried to dissuade an official with the United States Customs and Border Protection, Mark A. Morgan. As a welcoming committee, Donald Trump declared a state of emergency on the border with Mexico on Friday.

Escape the multiple crises

Whatever. Hondurans “Have surely thought that this window [de la transition présidentielle, NDLR] was not going to stay open for long ”, notes Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky, researcher at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) on Iberian issues.

A dozen human caravans have attempted the adventure since 2018, often without success. Having left Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala, the asylum seekers are fleeing endemic violence and poverty. More recently, the health crisis and the devastating passage of two hurricanes have further ruined their living conditions. Stopped in Guatemala, the caravan should again not reach Mexico or the United States. Her journey stopped Monday, January 18 after the Guatemalan army forced her, a second time, to turn back. But the American dream should endure.

Immigration law reform

The borders will not reopen with Joe Biden, but the reception conditions for migrants should experience some relaxation. From his earliest days in the White House, the future president promised to reform immigration law to grant citizenship to some 11 million long-established illegals in the United States. However, new arrivals will not be eligible for this program.

He also intends to focus on the reunification of families separated under Donald Trump and end the restrictive asylum policy that forces exiles in Central America to apply for asylum from Mexico and wait for a response. before they could enter American soil.

The rear guard of the United States

“They spend 6 months to two years waiting for the answer before being, in general, refused”, describes Françoise Lestage, professor at the University of Paris and researcher on migration issues in Mexico. “This creates a number of problems and while in 2018 the government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) initially welcomed caravans and helped migrants, today it criminalizes them and strengthens the police and the army on the border with Guatemala. “

In Honduras, defending the environment at the risk of one’s life

Under the threat of Donald Trump to increase tariffs, Mexico and Guatemala have become the border guards of the United States. “For the moment, they have decided to play on the continuity of what had been negotiated with Washington, comments Jean-Jacques Kourliandsky. For Guatemala, breaking these caravans is a message addressed to Guatemalan candidates who would like to leave the country. As to relations between AMLO and Joe Biden, that remains the great unknown. But they are not presenting themselves in their best light. “

Anyway, Françoise Lestage is sure: “The desperation is such that people are ready for anything. As long as Honduras is what it is, the migratory caravans are not going to stop. ” Tackling the causes of migration will be the other big job awaiting the new US administration.

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