Now, months later, some migrants hoping to start over in the United States say the hurricanes are a big reason behind their decision to head north.
“(Hurricane) Eta — plus the pandemic — left us with nothing,” a Honduran father told CNN en Español shortly after US authorities deported him and his family to Reynosa, Mexico.
These voices from the border are a reminder of two important contributors to this crisis that haven’t gotten much attention, even as political debate heats up: climate change and Covid-19.
That’s making the situation unfolding now at the US-Mexico border even more complicated. Here’s how:
Two intense hurricanes displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Now some of them are migrating
“So much famine is coming because the last harvest was lost. There is no capacity to store anything. Prices were already skyrocketing. … I don’t want to think about what’s going on through the minds of those who lost everything,” nutrition specialist Dr. Maria Angélica Milla said in November. “Prepare for the waves.”
Climate change itself is rarely the lone driving factor behind migration, says Kayly Ober, program manager of Refugees International’s Climate Displacement Program. But in exacerbating existing issues, it can play into people’s decisions.
“In the case of Hurricanes Eta and Iota, yes, the pure intensity of the scale and impact was definitely impacted by climate change,” she says. “That wrought a level of destruction that was unheard of in some parts of the region.”
Families in the region were already “surviving on the edge of a knife” even before the storms, facing food shortages and pervasive violence, says Meghan López, the International Rescue Committee’s regional vice president for Latin America.
“To have the pandemic on top of that, to have aid to the region cut, all of these things create this pressure cooker where there’s no escape valve,” López says. “And the only escape valve is to try to flee the terrible situation people are living in. … People are making desperate decisions.”
The pandemic had already deepened problems in Central America
López says the pandemic, like the hurricanes that hit the region, made existing problems far worse.
“If people were already experiencing violence, they were then locked into their communities, locked into their homes with that violence,” she says. “Really Covid just exacerbated at ratcheted every single issue that people are facing in the region, and every single risk factor for migration in the region, up many, many notches.”
“With Covid-19, it was a double whammy,” Ober says. “If you moved to the city, there were lockdowns, and you weren’t able to access those economic opportunities anymore. It made it harder to overcome any kind of shocks.”
It’s also made logistics at the border more difficult
In addition to worsening economic conditions in Central America, the pandemic has also contributed to a big backlog at the US-Mexico border.
“It’s playing a huge role,” says Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.
Another major complicating factor: the pandemic is ongoing — raising public health questions about the conditions in facilities where migrants are detained and how coronavirus testing is being conducted.
“There hasn’t been a lot of transparency about the testing process. … It’s adding a layer of complexity to an already very challenging situation,” Pierce says.
CNN’s Rosa Flores, Gustavo Valdés, Natalie Gallón, Priscilla Alvarez, Geneva Sands and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.Source link