Honduras' consular officials will join Mexico, Guatemala in McAllen - The Monitor: News

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Honduras' consular officials will join Mexico, Guatemala in McAllen

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    The Guatemalan Consulate across the street from the McAllen City Hall on south Broadway in downtown Friday June 28, 2013 in McAllen. Photo by joel martinez/jmartinez@themonitor.com

Posted: Saturday, June 29, 2013 9:33 pm

McALLEN — Honduras will open a diplomatic outpost on South Broadway Street, joining the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates on McAllen’s version of Embassy Row.

Diplomats from Honduras will share the one-story building at 709 S. Broadway Street with their Guatemalan counterparts.

And like their Guatemalan counterparts, they’ll spend most days processing deportation paperwork.

Since Oct. 1, Border Patrol agents assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Sector have arrested nearly 20,000 Hondurans who illegally entered the United States. Along with migrants from other Central American nations, mostly El Salvador and Guatemala, they’ve flooded across the Rio Grande.

“And I want to say between El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, it’s almost a three-way tie,” said Chief Patrol Agent Rosendo Hinojosa, who oversees the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

Honduras will open diplomatic offices in Dallas and McAllen, said Karol Escalante, second secretary for press and cultural affairs at the Honduran Embassy in Washington. Neither the Dallas nor McAllen office will be a full-blown consulate.

“They’ll be auxiliary,” Escalante said. “The main office is in Houston.”

Like Border Patrol, diplomats from all three countries also have struggled with the influx of immigrants crossing through the Rio Grande Valley. Processing deportation paperwork for what Border Patrol calls OTMs — Other Than Mexicans — requires additional time and travel documents from the respective country.

Last fiscal year, the Rio Grande Valley Sector recorded nearly 98,000 arrests. About half came from nations other than Mexico.

“Central Americans have always represented the largest population group of OTMS other than 2006, when we had an influx of Brazilian nationals here,” Hinojosa said.

During the current fiscal year, Rio Grande Valley Sector agents have already arrested more than 100,000 people, including 60,000 from nations other than Mexico.

"We’ve already apprehended more OTMs this year than we did the entire year last year,” Hinojosa said, and the fiscal year doesn’t end until October.

To handle the workload and provide better services, several nations have considered assigning diplomats to McAllen.

In December 2011, the McAllen City Commission helped the Guatemalan government establish a consulate on South Broadway. McAllen offered Guatemala a five-year lease on the building with a nominal $1 annual rent. Guatemala must pay all utilities.

“A lot of people from Guatemala use this border to cross and enter the United States, said Consul Alba Caceres.

Having a local consulate allows Guatemalan diplomats to meet face-to-face with immigrants arrested by Border Patrol, Caceres said, and provide better services. Keeping up with the ever-rising number of immigrants, though, has been challenging.

Last calendar year, the consulate processed about 10,900 travel documents for deportations and made arrangements for the remains of 29 dead migrants to return home, Caceres said. 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.

“And now it’s June,” Caceres said, when the oppressive heat makes wandering through the South Texas brush especially dangerous. “It’s a hard time for us.”

Guatemala originally approached El Salvador about opening a local consulate. Former Mayor Richard Cortez announced the deal during a speech, but it never materialized. The conversation later turned to Honduras, which handles services for Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and New Mexico from Houston.

In addition to immigration, the local consulates will help McAllen forge closer relationships with Central America, said Mayor Jim Darling.

“With the Mexican Consulate here and with the Guatemalan Consulate here, it’s kind of — for lack of a better term — an Embassy Row principle,” Darling said, adding that the city was happy to help Honduras open a local office. “And it made sense to do that.”

dhendricks@themonitor.com

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