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More than 100 Haitians found in trailer in Guatemala as desperate efforts to reach U.S. continue

Migrants, mostly from Haiti, are detained in Tapachula, Mexico, on Sept. 11. (Juan Manuel Blanco/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Guatemalan police rescued 126 mainly Haitian migrants from an abandoned shipping container on the side of a road Saturday — highlighting how the desperate flow of people from Haiti and across South America has not abated despite the recent wave of U.S. deportations.

Guatemalan authorities said they searched the trailer around dawn after residents heard screams coming from within, the BBC reported. The shipping container was found in an area between the towns of Nueva Concepción and Cocales in the country’s south.

Police spokesman Jorge Aguilar told reporters that of the 126 undocumented people found inside, 106 were from Haiti, 11 from Nepal and nine from Ghana, AFP reported.

Haiti buries a president, but its long-term crisis lives on

Police suspect they had paid to be illegally taken to the United States via Mexico by smugglers, who instead abandoned them on the road.

The treacherous journey appears to have begun in Honduras, said a spokeswoman for Guatemala’s migration authority, Alejandra Mena, the BBC reported. After first-aid checks on the migrants and asylum seekers, Guatemalan officials said, they would be deported back to Honduras and taken into custody there.

Countless migrants and asylum seekers have died or been detained while taking increasingly risky routes to reach the United States.

Abductions by the busload: Haitians are being held hostage by a surge in kidnappings

On Thursday, police in Mexico found 652 migrants crammed into six trailers near the U.S. border. About half of them were children, nearly 200 of whom were not accompanied by an adult.

Refugee advocates have been particularly concerned about a recent surge in migrants from Haiti, the western hemisphere’s poorest nation that’s now also facing the world’s highest per capita kidnapping rate.

Warring gangs already controlled significant parts of the country when President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July, thrusting the country into further political turmoil. The Biden administration has since backed Haiti’s embattled interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, who critics say would be unable to remain in power without Washington’s support. Adding to the daily stress of Haitians, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in August devastated much of the island nation’s southwest.

Haitian migrants thought Biden would welcome them. Now deported to Haiti, they have one mission: Leave again.

Facing increasingly dire conditions at home in Haiti, and in South American countries where many Haitians fled after the 2010 earthquake, thousands have tried their luck seeking asylum and finding work in the United States. Many of those who came in recent months said they expected to be allowed in by the Biden administration.

But amid a surge at the U.S.-Mexico border, the administration in mid-September began rapidly deporting thousands of Haitians from Texas to Port-au-Prince. Some who were sent back said they had not lived in Haiti for decades. Others vowed to continue to try again.

Determined migrants unfazed as deportations begin from Texas border

The Biden administration invoked a pandemic-related measure, Title 42, to rapidly deport border crossers back to Mexico or their home countries. Deportees, however, said no systematic coronavirus testing has been conducted, and several reported testing positive for the virus upon arrival in Haiti.

Controversy erupted last month after images of horse-mounted Border Patrol agents attempting to grab migrants and push them back over the border put the nation’s focus on the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Once back in Haiti, some recent returnees have become the targets of kidnappers amid reports that they will be carrying cash. Many of the thousands of Haitians deported in recent weeks remain stranded in Port-au-Prince.

Ambassador Daniel Foote, President Biden’s former special envoy for Haiti, resigned last month in protest over the U.S. government’s policies.

He told members of a House panel Thursday that the deportation policies were “inhumane” and would not deter people from trying to reach the United States.

“We’ve always prioritized stability over going after the root causes of instability,” he told lawmakers. “I believe the root causes of instability are now that the Haitian people do not believe that they have had a voice in their destiny in selecting their leaders.”