US deportations to Guatemalans via Air Divindal for second year of pandemic

Guatemala City: The United States marked the second year of a steady decline in the amount of migrants sent back to the Central American country during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the completion of three final deportation flights to Guatemalans in 2021.

Guatemala this year deported 17,806 of its citizens from the United States via 184 flights. According to figures from the Guatemalan Institute of Migration (IGM), there were about 4,000 deported minors.

Compared to the pre-pandemic figures in 2019 of 54,599 Guatemalan deportees, the number of people deported by air this year marked a decrease of 38%. In 2020, when some flights were suspended, the United States repatriated 21,057 people.

Gerson Sanchez, a 40-year-old businessman from northern Guatemala, said he and 23 others were arrested while crossing Texas from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas in early December. He was deported on Tuesday from McAllen, Texas, on a flight along with 125 others.

“It was my first time trying to work in the United States, but after a bad experience in that detention center, I prefer not to try again,” Sanchez said.

Despite a decrease in deportations by air from the United States, problems at the southern border are getting worse as record numbers of migrants arrive in hopes of crossing the border, according to Ursula Roldan, a migration specialist at the Rafael Landivar University in Guatemala.

“This is because of the containment policies of the United States introduced under the Trump administration. This worries us because the borders are at-risk places due to human trafficking and drug trafficking, and migrants are stranded in the region,” Roldan said.

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