By Judith Sudilovsky
GUATEMALA CITY — The plane landed at the Guatemalan Air Force airfield behind Guatemala City’s commercial airport and its weary-eyed passengers disembarked onto the tarmac in a straight, organized line.
Father Mauro Verzeletti, director of the Scalabrini Missionaries’ Migrant Shelter, confers with staff as they wait for the planeload of recently deported migrants to be processed and released from the immigration hall. (CNS/Judith Sudilovsky)
One by one, these 200 mostly young men recently deported from the U.S. filed into the receiving hall past us — three journalists participating in a Catholic Relief Services Egan Fellowship to Guatemala and Honduras to learn about the push factors for migration; one feisty Brazilian Scalabrini priest who directs a shelter for migrants; and Lucrecia Oliva, a CRS consultant on migration issues.
As each person entered they were registered by Guatemalan immigration officials before they could leave. Oliva greeted them with a polite “Good afternoon.” She had met with groups of expelled migrants before, but she had not seen them as they first returned.
Now she blinked heavily to keep back the tears.
This time it was different. She saw their individual faces. They were tired and scared. A few were, at least temporarily, jubilant and brash.
Four days a week, three times each day, flights arrive full of migrants deported from the U.S. For many of the young men it was not their first return trip home.
One man, 27, who had lived in New York for 11 years, said he might try to take the perilous journey across Mexico again as soon as the next day.
Though most people we spoke with agree that violence in Guatemala is not as serious as in neighboring El Salvador and Honduras, it does exist. Some of the youth may have been escaping gang or drug violence; others came seeking work to support their families in a country where half of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
A new government has been in power for less than a year, after the former president, vice president, and half of their cabinet were forced from office and are now serving prison terms for financial corruption. The new leaders have promised to tackle some of Guatemala’s pressing needs, but assert that it will take time to correct even the smallest of the ills of their predecessors who left the national till empty. People are waiting to see what actually gets done.
Oliva said she can understand (Read More)