JUÁREZ, Mexico – The Mexican government plans to open a huge shelter this week to accommodate the thousands of asylum seekers sent back to this border town pending court hearings in the United States
The federal aid comes months after city and state governments — and Juárez’s influential business community — began asking for resources to handle an influx of Central American, Cuban and other migrants.
About 15 shelters in Juárez, the majority set up by churches, were packed at the height of the recent wave of migrants several weeks ago.
The founder of a local independent group called Iniciativa Juárez, or the Juárez Initiative, which was formed to deal with the immigration crisis, applauded the federal government’s plans.
“We realize that neither the city nor the state governments have the capacity to solve a problem created by the United States,” said Manuel Sotelo, founder of Iniciativa Juárez and local business owner. “The idea is that we will have more capacity for the migrants the United States sends back to have somewhere to go – where to stay overnight, clean up, have a meal, look for work.”
The Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” program, officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, has returned more than 20,000 Central American, Cuban and other asylum seekers to border towns to await court hearings. immigration americans.
Juárez has received more returnees than any other border town: 9,314 through mid-July, according to the Mexican government. Although many are choosing to return to their home countries – or trying to cross illegally, trying to evade US border patrol – thousands of people remain stranded.
“Remain in Mexico” launched in San Diego in January; the second busiest Mexican border city is Tijuana, which has received more than 6,600 migrants under the program. Mexicali, Nuevo Laredo and, more recently, Matamoros are also welcoming migrants under migrant protection protocols.
Housed in a former maquiladora in an industrial district, the new refuge in Juárez should have the capacity to house and feed some 3,000 migrants, according to Manuel Del Castillo, spokesman for the federal government delegate for the state of Chihuahua. , Juan Carlos Loera.
Mexican army and National Guard vehicles could be seen arriving Tuesday afternoon at the peach-colored building on Juan Gabriel Boulevard, along with fire trucks and city civil protection. Federal workers set up white barriers in the parking lot.
A mobile military kitchen was stationed near what were once the factory’s loading docks.
Del Castillo said the shelter will initially receive around 200 migrants.
Neither the city, state, nor federal government could confirm the official opening date for the shelter. Castillo also couldn’t provide a figure for the total investment, but said the federal government pays 400,000 pesos in monthly rent, or about $21,000.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s commissioner for handling the issue of immigration at the country’s northern border, Horacio Duarte Olivares, told Mexican media last week that the government would open similar shelters in Tijuana, Mexicali and Nuevo. Laredo to help returned migrants to these cities. as part of the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
Border-wide, U.S. Border Patrol arrests of migrants crossing illegally or seeking asylum declined in June from May, but remain well above year-ago levels. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 95,000 migrants in June, up from nearly 133,000 in May.
From October to June in the Sector El Paso, which includes New Mexico and El Paso and Hudspeth counties in West Texas, Border Patrol apprehended more than 117,000 family units, compared to approximately 6,300 family units during the period of the last year. During the same nine-month period, the sector received almost 14,600 unaccompanied minors, compared to less than 4,000 a year ago.
Many families of asylum seekers were sent back to Juárez.
“Certainly the help (from the federal government) is welcome,” said Enrique Valenzuela, director of a state-run migrant assistance center in Chihuahua in Juárez that has been helping migrants for months. “We’ve been waiting for a long time, especially since we started anticipating so many people to return.”
Many families returned to Juárez as part of “Remain in Mexico” were locked in stifling church shelters. Cuban migrants, some of whom have additional resources through long-standing family ties in the United States, stay in small downtown hotels.
Returned to a border town unfamiliar to them and notorious for organized crime, each returning migrant faces a stark choice: wait for a court date and an uncertain outcome, give up their American dream and return home, or attempt his chance by crossing illegally.
A Guatemalan named Francisco arrived on a bus in Juárez in May with his 10-year-old daughter and is hoping for a new life in the United States. he was working illegally in Virginia before, he asked the El Paso Times not to release his full name. He crossed the border and applied for asylum, only to be sent back to Juárez under the heading “Remain in Mexico”.
He found accommodation alongside a dozen other migrants in a Christian’s half-built house on a rubbish-covered hill on the outskirts of town. For two months he and his daughter shared a dirty mattress on the floor in a room littered with mattresses and migrants, all with court dates, all unsure of what to do.
Francisco went to his first court date, then backed out. He and his daughter arrived in Guatemala by bus on Sunday.
“My daughter said, ‘Papi, let’s go home,'” he said in a phone call from Guatemala’s Huehuetenango state. “Now that I’m home, I tell people there’s no way to cross. Why risk your money? But (migration) is a phenomenon that will never end. The American Dream doesn’t die until you die.