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‘We’re defeated’: Climate migrants fleeing storm-stricken Central America struggle to find refuge

'We're defeated': Climate migrants fleeing storm-stricken Central America struggle to find refuge

Experts say migration from this region will likely grow as natural disasters intensify due to climate change — an increase immigration authorities may not be equipped to face.

CIUDAD JUÁREZ — For Deivis Nahum Espina, a tragedy fell from the sky — severe floods inundated his village in Honduras, destroying crops, homes and causing landslides.

“It was like in the Bible,” Espina, 31, said as he pointed to the sky and described the devastation caused by the hurricanes Eta and Iota last year. That cataclysm prompted him to leave Honduras with his two children, sister and nephews. "We came walking and, at times, in buses. It was like two months of travel," he said.

Espina is among the growing number of Central Americans who have recently fled the region after destructive storms and a growing climate crisis — only to find themselves in a migratory limbo.

On March 15, Espina crossed the border through the Mexican town of Reynosa and surrendered to authorities in the United States, seeking asylum. But he and his family were instead sent back to Mexico under a rule put in place during the Trump administration.

He was returned to Mexico without the possibility of requesting asylum at the U.S. border because of Title 42, a rule put in place by former President Donald Trump on March 21 of last year to prevent the entry of people crossing the border during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 62,000 people have been denied entry under the rule as of January.

Espina and his family were taken to the State Council for Population and Attention to Migrants, known by its Spanish acronym COESPO, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua in Ciudad Juárez. He would repeatedly ask where he was, as if he believed that it had all been a mistake.

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