In Guatemala, refugees find new calling as park rangers

In Guatemala, refugees find new calling as park rangers

At night in Mirador National Park in northeastern Guatemala, Raul Gomez falls asleep surrounded by the calls of nocturnal animals padding their way through the jungles of the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Gomez is a ranger there, helping to keep poachers and loggers out of the remote park — one of Guatemala’s most pristine — which is home to jaguars, harpy eagles, and the sprawling ruins of once-mighty Mayan cities now enveloped by vines and greenery. It’s a far cry from Gomez’s life as a bricklayer just two years ago, when he had to go on the run from his village in Honduras after local maras (gang members) delivered him an ultimatum: join us, or die. Gomez, whose real name is not being used to protect his identity, is one of hundreds of thousands of migrants to have arrived in Guatemala in recent years, a key transit country along the journey to the U.S., where they hope to find safety and new lives. Some, like Gomez, are fleeing violence or political persecution. Others are being pushed north by climate change or seeking better economic opportunities. For decades, the U.S. had a system in place to sift through asylum claims and determine which ones met the legal criteria under the 1951 Refugee Convention. But harsh immigration restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have made the process nearly impossible, and a new rule issued in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic essentially closed U.S. borders to migration of any kind. For many…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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