The Limbo Facing Migrants: On the Streets and Expectant

On the border

More than 3,400 migrants who entered through El Paso were expelled in a week to Mexico or their countries of origin, US authorities reported.

By EFE / Confidencial

HAVANA TIMES – In Washington the courts will decide whether to maintain Title 42, the health regulation that allows the immediate expulsion of migrants. It had been scheduled to end this Wednesday, December 21st. Meanwhile, the US border with Mexico is a limbo land with thousands of migrants exposed to situations of greater risk.

After having crossed thousands of kilometers, having skirted the danger of the cartels, endured hunger and some, mainly Venezuelans, who also crossed the hostile Darien jungle (on the border between Colombia and Panama), the migrants face a decision: wait in Mexico or risk crossing illegally.

With the health standard in place, surrendering to the Border Patrol is no longer an immediate option for many migrants, who are expelled as part of the agreements between the Mexican and US governments.

Title 42, which came into force during the term of Donald Trump (2017-2021) with the excuse of the pandemic, remains in force after a precautionary measure from the Supreme Court, which prevents people from countries like Venezuela or those of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, from  requesting asylum in the US. However, Nicaraguan migrants continue to be allowed to enter to begin their international protection process.

Desperate, some migrants decide to take a risk, looking for a hole or an opening in the border wall or paying coyotes up to $1,000 to guide them through paths to evade capture by Border Patrol.

With her two children, a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old, and along with another migrant she met in Mexico, Samira (fictitious name to hide her identity) jumped over the border wall several days ago and arrived in the city of El Paso, in Texas.

“I did it for them,” the Salvadoran woman told the EFE news agency, while she waited, sitting on the sidewalk, with her youngest son in her arms, at the gates of one of the several shelters in the border city that provide shelter for migrants.

Samira had already tried to cross into the US a month ago, when she turned herself in to Border Patrol with the intention of requesting asylum, but she was deported back to Mexico.

Her kids father is in another US state and she hopes to meet him, but she still hasn’t raised enough money for a bus ticket and she is also afraid of being arrested on the way and thrown out of the country.

In a tour of the different places in El Paso where migrants spend the night on the street or in shelters, EFE was able to speak with more than a dozen people who entered the US without being detected by border authorities.

Expulsions of immigrants continue

The US Department of Homeland Security reported Tuesday that during the last week, they have expelled to Mexico, or on flights to their countries of origin, more than 3,400 migrants who entered through El Paso.

Some 6,000 migrants were transferred to other sectors to continue immigration control procedures and take some of the pressure off El Paso, Texas. Migration specialists who assist compatriots in their passage through Mexico to enter the US confirmed the increase in Nicaraguan immigrants, of whom they also have deportation notifications.

In the press release, Homeland Security noted that average daily encounters decreased by 40 percent.

“From approximately 2,500 per day, to approximately 1,500 per day, over the last three days, as we continue to work with partners in Mexico to discourage disorderly migration and disrupt criminal smuggling operations,” the text quotes.

Migrants are forced to spend the day and night on the streets of El Paso, Texas, after being released by the United States Border Patrol, this December 20, 2022.  Photo: Allison Dinner / EFE / EPA

Since Tuesday morning, members of the US National Guard have been patrolling the border wall with Mexico and have placed barbed wire to prevent the crossing of migrants, who had formed lines last week to turn themselves in to the immigration authorities. Several international news channels have broadcast the situation of the migrants, who are waiting in the open and under adverse weather conditions expectantly for the new regulations.

The immigration crisis has focused these days on El Paso, causing a declaration of a state of emergency by its mayor, Oscar Leeser, due to the crowded shelters and many having to sleep on the street. However, CNN reports that in other border cities on the US side, the shelters are also full. And the same thing happens on the Mexican side.

In El Paso, two unoccupied schools and a Convention Center in the center of the city, will be set up to welcome migrants, the El Paso Matters media outlet said in a report.

Strong military presence on the border

The strong military and police presence on the border between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, on Wednesday further narrowed the already limited access of migrants trying to cross.

A day after the US National Guard placed barbed wire in the only part of this border area without a wall, hundreds of migrants lined up this Wednesday in the hope that the US authorities will let them pass and turn themselves in.

The state of Texas sent more than 400 soldiers to the city of El Paso on Tuesday, to “reinforce border security”, given the increase in “illegal crossings” in the last week, according to the state’s military department.

Since then, soldiers armed with rifles and military trucks have prevented migrants from crossing a stretch of the border, crossing the Rio Grande through the area without a wall, which is now full of concertina mesh fences.

This situation forced hundreds of migrants to move west, where they formed a line in front of a gate in the border wall.

The Border Patrol only opens this door, which is as high as the wall, from time to time, and each time it allows between ten and fifteen people to pass through, detains them and transports them to a processing center to process their cases, according to EFE.

The goal of the National Guard, in conjunction with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), is to “block the path of entry” where there is no wall and move people to go to the “ports of entry,” Elliott Torres, spokesman for the DPS, explained to EFE.

However, due to Title 42, it is not possible for migrants to request asylum at the ports of entry, so people decide to turn themselves in to be detained by the immigration authorities.

In the long line of migrants, wrapped in blankets to protect themselves from the cold that plagues border cities at nightfall, there were migrants from Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, and Colombia.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times