In Aguas Calientes, near Honduras’s northern border, an elite unit of the Honduran National Police, trained and funded by the United States, is attempting to slow the flow of migrants passing through Guatemala on their way to the US border. A widely reported increase in the number of unaccompanied minors traveling from Central America led to the deployment of the team.
“We are saving the lives of our country’s children,” said Noel Hernández, a first lieutenant with the unit, the Honduran Special Tactical Operations Group.
The special squad arrived a little more than two weeks ago to become the first line of defense in “Operation Rescue Angels,” according to Commissioner Miguel Martínez Madrid, a Honduran liaison to the US Embassy in Tegucigalpa. “These are little angels. They are not conscious of the risks they are taking. We are doing something good,” said Martinez Madrid. “These are our children. They are the future of our country.”
The US State Department has provided the unit’s primary funding. Likewise, training has come from the US Border Patrol Tactical Unit, known as BORTAC. The operation aims to stop not only the exodus of unaccompanied minors, but of children heading north illegally with just one parent.
In Honduras, children can only leave the country with authorization from both parents — or if traveling with just one of them, a notarized document from the absent parent — and a valid Honduran passport.
In the last 17 days, the special Honduran unit has stopped 90 children from crossing the northern border near Aguas Calientes, which Martínez Madrid acknowledges, is just a drop in a bucket.
Operation Rescue Angels is the first program of its kind in Central America, with 14 agents stationed at the northern border near Aguas Calientes. An additional 13 are assigned to the southern border with Nicaragua. Despite the targeted successes, officials suspect that the flow may have moved to other crossing points.
The training of this special unit was funded through a program called the Central America Regional Security Initiative, whose goal is to alleviate “border security deficiencies” as well as disrupt drug and weapons trafficking and organized crime.
Source: Los Angeles Times.