Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei wants every Guatemalan deportee from the U.S. to be certified free of Coronavirus. Yet his government is still sending guest-worker Guatemalans to the U.S. and Canada—where they might catch it. And the U.S. State Department is helping.
For the record, at last count, Guatemala counts just 1,052 virus cases with 26 dead, a big increase since April 1 when the country had just 39 cases. Cases have nearly doubled since April 24, 12 days ago. The population of Guatemala is 17.2 million, so for comparison, 4,129 cases and 244 deaths per one million people, Guatemala has 54 cases and one death per one million people.
That raises two questions:
The answer to the first is obvious. But as for looking after our interests, critics of U.S. attempts to do so aren’t just confined to Giammattei, journalists, and immigration enthusiasts. Joining them is U.S. Rep. Norma Torres, the Democrat who represents California’s 35th District and rates an F- from Numbers USA.
Torres, pictured right, is “the sole Central American in Congress and an immigrant from Guatemala,” CBS News recently told us.
“Immigrant” is a euphemistic way to describe Torres. She was born in 1965 in Guatemala, but her parents sent her here on a tourist visa to live with relatives in 1970 with no intention of bringing her home. Of course, she overstayed. She became a U.S. citizen in some unspecified way in time for Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, and she was elected to Congress 22 years later [A child of Guatemala seeks a seat in Congress, by Kevin Freking, The Associated Press, September 6, 2014].
“I do believe,” she huffed, “that the U.S. is exporting the virus.” [“Exporting the virus”: Migrants deported by U.S. make up 20% of Guatemala's coronavirus cases, by Camilo Montoya-Galvez, April 27, 2020].
One wonders if Torres is as concerned about her adopted country as she is about the country she left. Perhaps it hadn’t occurred to her, but those “migrants” would not have contracted the virus here if they had stayed there…where they belong.
Anyway, on April 16,, the U.S. and Guatemala agreed to suspend deportation flights with exceptions for humanitarian cases [Coronavirus: Ingresa otro vuelo con menores deportados de Estados Unidos (“Coronavirus: Another Flight Arrives with Deported Minors from the United States”), by Irving Escobar, Prensa Libre, April 24, 2020].
Though 100 deportees had the virus (about 20 percent of the country’s total Coronavirus cases) when Torres was bellyaching, that problem is resolved.
On April 30, 92 deportees who tested negative went home, and now, U.S. and Guatemalan officials were negotiating to end the suspension of flights [Guatemala says US testing deportees for virus before sending, by Sonia Perez D., The Associated Press, April 30, 2020].
On May 10, Guatemala's Prensa Libre reported that in the week previous, two flights of deportees arrived in Guatemala (on the 4th and 6th), delivering a total of 151 deportees, only one of whom tested positive for COVID-19. So the new system seems to be working pretty good. There are deportee flights scheduled for May 11, May 13, and May 15. [Vuelos con deportados se retomarán a pesar de que un retornado dio positivo de covid-19 la última semana ("Flights of Deportees Will Arrive Again Despite the Fact that One Returnee Tested Positive for COVID-19 in the Past Week") by Manuel Hernandez Mayen, Prensa Libre, May 10, 2020).
Meanwhile, Reuters reports, some of the returning deportees aren’t exactly welcome:
Guatemala’s indigenous Maya towns are spurning returned migrants, threatening some with burning their homes or lynching as fear spreads about more than 100 deportees from the United States who tested positive for the new coronavirus. In one city in the Guatemalan highlands, home to a large indigenous population, residents tried to burn down a migrant shelter. In some villages, locals are rebuffing the recently returned and threatening relatives of the deportees with expulsion from their homes.
[Maya villages in Guatemala spurn U.S. deportees as infections spike, by Sofia Menchu, May 1, 2020].
Don’t call that “xenophobia”; Mayan villagers are attacking fellow Mayan villagers.
On April 19, Giammattei described the change thusly:
Only a few months ago, most people were very happy [with migrants] because they came bringing remittance checks, but now they treat them like criminals.
But that’s deportees.
The Guatemalan government has also launched the “We Want You Home,” repatriation program that had returned 1,482 Guatemalans from 28 countries as of April 17 [Retornan al País 84 Guatemaltecos Varados en Perú (“Eighty-four Guatemalans Stuck in Peru Returned to the Country”), Minex.gob.gt, April 17, 2020]. My guess, informed by years living in Latin America: this program is for the more well-to-do.
On April 30, two such flights returned, one from Costa Rica and another from Ecuador, and the passengers went straight to quarantine. None, at last report, are believed to have COVID-19 [Vuelo de Rescate de guatemaltecos varados en Costa Rica y Ecuador (“Rescue Flight of Guatemalans stuck in Costa Rica and Ecuador”), Minex.gob.gt, April 30, 2020].
So that’s the rundown on Guatemalans headed home…where they belong.
However, the same Guatemalan government that doesn’t want its illegal emigrants back if they carry the COVID-19 bug has no problem sending other citizens abroad, where they might contract it or even carry it abroad with them.
So reported Diario de Centro América, the official newspaper of the Guatemalan government:
A group of 17 Guatemalans traveled this weekend to Montreal, Canada, to work on three cattle farms, thanks to the [Labor Ministry’s] Program of Temporary Work Abroad. … [T]he Guatemalans signed a work contract for 12 months, which covers all their benefits, lodging, food and travel.
[Guatemaltecos viajan a Canadá por trabajo temporal (“Guatemalans travel to Canada for temporary work”), by Josselinne Santizo, May 3, 2020]
That wasn’t exactly a bright idea given what had just happened in Ontario, Canada: Nine Guatemalans on a pepper farm that employs 250 guest workers were among 40 who contracted the virus [Nueve agricultores guatemaltecos dieron positivo al covid-19 en una granja de Canadá (“Nine Guatemalan Farm Workers test Positive for COVID-19 in a Farm in Canada”), by Sergio Morales Rodas, Prensa Libre, April 29, 2020].
Even worse, though President Giammattei has said the U.S. is Wuhan West, and despite President Trump’s immigration moratorium, more Guatemalans are coming here. The U.S. resumed handling H-2 worker visas as of April 18 with a big “special provision” thanks to COVID-19. According to an announcement on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala:
[I]n-person interviews will not be required for most H-2 visa applicants, whether they be workers returning to the United States or first-time visa applicants.
[The U.S. Embassy Resumes H-2 Visa Processing and Launches The New Interview Waiver Process for Seasonal Workers, U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, April 18, 2020]
Fingerprints are no longer required, either.
The embassy thinks H2 visas for legal guestworkers create “valuable economic opportunities for both Guatemalan workers and U.S. employers, increasing prosperity in both countries.”
How importing foreign labor helps more than 30 million Americans who have applied for unemployment is a mystery.
Of course, the Guatemalan government, despite its fears about accepting infected deportees, has no qualms about assisting the effort and will provide permission for the travel in compliance with COVID-19 rules.
Here then is the summary:
It’s not as contradictory as it sounds if you recall the wise if apocryphal words of Deep Throat in All The President’s Men: Follow the money.
Giammattei is making money—and saving more of it—by encouraging the departure of workers who mail home remittances, while discouraging the return of the sick, who can be cared for at American , Canadian or Mexican taxpayer expense.
It’s a win-win for Guatemala.
But what about the U.S.?
It means more cheap labor for agribusiness and anyone else who wants low-wage help—while 30 million-plus unemployed Americans wonder how to pay their bills.
What’s good for Guatemala and American employers who want cheap labor isn’t good for Americans.
If Guatemala can advance its interests, so can we.
VDARE’s Washington Watcher II is right: Americans overwhelmingly favor a moratorium. It’s a winning issue for Trump.
We need a total shutdown of immigrants and foreign workers, either “permanent” or “temporary”.
What’s he waiting for? The time to close the borders is now!
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) moved back to the U.S.A. in 2008 after many years residing in Mexico. Allan's wife is Mexican, and their two sons are bilingual. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here; his News With Views columns are archived here; and his website is here.