Polls open for Guatemala’s presidential election | AFP

Guatemalans are set to elect a new president Sunday after gang violence, poverty and streams of US-bound migrants have dominated campaigning in Central America’s most populous country, where a crowded field of 19 candidates is vying to succeed outgoing president Jimmy Morales. IMAGES

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Migrants at the Border Feel They Have No Choice But to Enter the U.S. Illegally (HBO)

EL PASO, Texas — In the two hours before sunset on a recent afternoon, Border Patrol agents working the line between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso saw more than 100 migrants step over the Rio Grande and into the United States.

They were nearly all families traveling together from Central America seeking asylum, and they crossed in groups ranging from six people to 40. When they spotted Border Patrol vehicles, they calmly walked over to turn themselves in — the first step to requesting asylum for those who enter the country illegally.

Carlos, a migrant from Honduras who crossed the border carrying a pale and coughing toddler, said he had initially planned to cross legally through an official port of entry. But out of the tens of thousands of people waiting, the U.S. allows in only a small percentage of asylum seekers on any given day.

“The truth is that my son couldn’t wait,” said Carlos. “He is very sick.”

The number of people found crossing the border illegally has shot up dramatically since the beginning of the year. In April, according to data released last week by CBP, the number nearly hit 100,000 — the highest it’s been in 12 years.

That’s as clear an indication as possible that the Trump administration’s strategy to deter Central American asylum seekers — which includes metering at ports of entry, expanded detention, and forcing families back to Mexico to wait out their asylum cases — has failed. VICE News went to the border to find out why.

This segment originally aired May 15, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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Video: large group of migrants crosses into US

U.S. Border Patrol officials say 360 migrants have surrendered to agents in Arizona. Border Patrol camera operators spotted the group Tuesday morning. Authorities say most were women and children from Central America. (April 17)

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Migrants from Central America kept behind barbed-wire fence in Texas

Footage filmed on Wednesday shows hundreds of migrant families from Central America being held in a pen beneath an underpass, in El Paso, Texas, as they were waiting to be processed by US immigration officials.

The makeshift encampment was set up in a parking lot of a Border Patrol station, beneath the Paso del Norte Bridge. Footage shows migrants cramped in the encampment, behind fence and barbed wire. READ MORE: https://on.rt.com/9r3e

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Trump’s Plan To Deter Asylum Seekers Creates A New Border Crisis (HBO)

Last Tuesday morning, Catardo Gómez stepped from the United States into Mexico, looked around briefly in confusion, and was immediately swarmed by microphones and cameras.

He’d made history simply by walking onto the other side of El Chaparral, a pedestrian border crossing connecting San Diego with Tijuana. Gómez was the first migrant sent back under a new Trump administration program, called the Migrant Protection Protocol, which requires asylum seekers to wait out their cases in Mexico instead of the U.S.

“I’m going straight to the place where I’m staying,” Gómez told the scrum of reporters before being hustled into a van by Mexican immigration agents. “I’m tired.”

Soon, more migrants from Central America like Gómez will be forced to make the trek back over the border as they wait for their asylum cases, which the US is required by domestic and international law to hear in full before it deports asylum seekers back to their home countries. If the program is fully implemented, the implications could be massive.

Most asylum seekers who enter the U.S. through the southern border, either by presenting themselves at a port of entry or crossing illegally and surrendering to Border Patrol agents, wait in the United States while their asylum cases proceed through the severely backlogged immigration court system, which can take months or years.

But now, a growing number will be forced to wait out the process in Mexican border cities, which are often beset by the same problems of violence and poverty that migrants fled in the first place. Some are likely to give up and return home as a result, and both supporters and critics of the program say such a deterrent effect is part of its design.

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Tijuana Residents Don’t Want The Migrant Caravan In Tijuana (HBO)

The desperate and seemingly unstoppable journey of about three thousand migrants from Central America heading towards the United States has finally reached Tijuana, the final stop before the U.S. border. But the goodwill that migrants encountered on their long journey north from people offering rides and meals is now greeted with a chillier reception.

Instead, those arriving in the border city earlier this week were greeted by hundreds of Tijuana residents protesting their presence with angry chants of “Mexico First!”

Protest organizers echoed language used by U.S. President Donald Trump. “Mexico has always opened its doors to Central Americans to legal and organized migration but not to the illegal invasion that’s currently taking place,” said organizer Jesus Eduardo Burgos Gomez.

At one point during the protest, a group of residents tried to rush one of the shelters housing migrants but Mexican police in riot gear held them back.

“There’s too many people,” said protester Josefina Arangure. “We won’t be able to control it. A lot of people are going to stay and get jobs, others are just going to commit crimes.”

Protesters say they’re worried that this new wave of asylum seekers will overwhelm a city that has already dealt with its share of refugees from previous migrant caravans and from Haitians fleeing the devastation of the 2016 earthquake.

While the vast majority of those in the caravan say their ultimate goal is to get to the United States, U.S. border inspectors under the Trump Administration have only been processing about 100 claims a day at the Tijuana crossing. In the meantime, another thousand Central American migrants are expected to arrive in the next few days.

“They’re coming here with an American dream that doesn’t exist,” said Aranguer. “So unfortunately these people are going to stay here.”

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