By Agence France-Presse
Deportations of Guatemalans have increased 80 percent this year on the back of US President Donald Trump’s controversial “zero tolerance” policy towards unauthorized migrants, Guatemala said on Thursday.
Spokeswoman for Guatemala’s Directorate General of Migration, Alejandra Mena, told AFP that 25,366 citizens of the country had been deported from the US between January and June this year, compared to just 14,103 in 2017.
Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, which has now been suspended, was introduced in April to try to discourage illegal border crossings from Mexico and Central America.
Among those deported this year were 243 children, Mena said.
But despite the uptick in deportations, remittances sent back to Guatemala from citizens living in the US increased by eight percent to almost $3.6 billion.
Just last week, US Vice President Mike Pence met the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras and told them: “This exodus must end,” in reference to the huge number of would-be immigrants embarking on the dangerous trek from their homelands through Mexico in a bid to reach the US.
Trump responded to the flow of people by introducing his widely-condemned “zero tolerance” policy that included separating children from their parents when detained at the border with Mexico. That measure has now been put on hold in the face of international outrage, but more than 2,000 children remaining in the care of US authorities.
Guatemala’s National Migrant Assistance Council estimates that around 1.5 million Guatemalans live in the United States, but only some 300,000 to 400,000 do so legally.
Poverty and violence are the main factors in pushing Central Americans to immigrate to the US, as the region is one of the most dangerous in the world and racked by drug trafficking rings and brutal street gangs.