It was one month after Hurricane Iota destroyed his family’s home that 31-year-old Jexis decided to leave his hometown of Choloma, Honduras. The storm arrived after months of joblessness he faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to years of economic hardship as contract labor jobs became increasingly hard to find. “When the pandemic came, there was no work and much suffering. But the hurricanes have made everything so much worse,” he said in late 2020. That December, he joined a caravan of migrants heading for the United States, in what would be his first attempt to migrate. Jexis and roughly 900 people had departed San Pedro Sula together, but were halted by military police by the end of their first day, after which they splintered into smaller groups.

Jexis’s situation is emblematic of many Honduran migrants, for whom the pandemic and Hurricanes Iota and Eta proved the tipping point. “It’s a complicated thing, being out of work for nine months and having a family, having children that are demanding food and you’re not able to give it,” he said. Jexis planned to travel with a friend from his neighborhood soccer team, Nelson, to find work in the United States and send back money to their families. The men were interviewed early in their journey by one of the authors; their surnames and those of others in this article are being withheld due to the vulnerability of their situation.

Driven by similar stories, the number of migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border—particularly from Honduras and its Central American neighbors Guatemala and, to a lesser extent, El Salvador—has risen dramatically in early 2021, to levels not seen in two decades. The impact of the pandemic and hurricanes might seem to be the most immediate causes, but there are numerous factors at work in Honduras, as well as the lure of jobs, family members, and other promises in the United States.

Read the full article about migration from Honduras by Ben Corson and Jeffrey Hallock at Migration Policy Institute.