At a time when thousands of Hondurans end up detained by U.S. border agents after crossing the Rio Grande, the country is joining McAllen’s “Embassy Row” when it opens a new diplomatic outpost in the border city, according to The Brownsville Herald.
The newspaper said that since Oct. 1, Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector arrested roughly 20,000 Honduras who entered the United States illegally.
The Guatemalan government also has a consulate in McAllen, the largest city in the Valley, a 120-mile-wide region that is the deepest portion of southern Texas along the Mexico border.
According to the Herald, the reason Honduras felt compelled to open a new consulate in the region is due to the significant uptick in arrests and deportations of Hondurans.
Unlike Mexicans, other nationals don't have the option to sign "voluntary departure" forms and be swiftly deposited back on the Mexican side of the border. Non-Mexicans have to be formally processed for deportation, a process involving the diplomatic intervention of their home governments, who have to officially accept deportees from the U.S.
Besides McAllen, Honduras also is opening another diplomatic outpost in Dallas, the newspaper quoted Karol Escalante, an official at the Honduran Embassy in Washington, as saying.
Diplomats from Honduras, Guatemala and Honduras assigned to the region certainly have their hands full. Deportation requires that countries of origin provide identification and travel documents.
The newspaper noted that in the last fiscal year, the Rio Grande Valley Sector had nearly 100,000 arrests, 50 percent of which involved nationals from countries other than Mexico, or "OTMs," primarily from Central American countries.
“Central Americans have always represented the largest population group of OTMs other than 2006, when we had an influx of Brazilian nationals here,” said Rosendo Hinojosa, chief of the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector.
“We’ve already apprehended more OTMs this year than we did the entire year last year,” Hinojosa said.
Guatemala opened a consulate in the area in 2011.
“A lot of people from Guatemala use this border to cross and enter the United States,” said Alba Caceres, the Guatemalan consul in McAllen.
The newspaper said that in the last calendar year, the Guatemalan consulate processed almost 11,000 travel documents for deportations and made arrangements for the remains of 29 dead migrants to return home.
“With about 10,500 travel document requests and 22 deaths during the past six months, both numbers could double, if the pace does not slow,” the newspaper said.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said that local consulates can help the city build ties with Central America.