Mexican border shelters prepare for migrant influx as U.S. restarts ‘Remain in Mexico’

Border Report

Pastor hopes asylum-seekers aren't subject to year-long waits like they were under Trump and are treated with more respect

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Juan Fierro is used to helping people in distress find hope amid the worst of circumstances. That’s why he’s trying to convince himself that the new incarnation of the “Remain in Mexico” policy won’t be as hard on newly arrived migrants as it was in 2019. But he has his doubts.

Pastor Juan Fierro

“I think it will be better this time. I think they will treat (asylum-seekers) with more humanity and respect,” the Methodist pastor and director of Good Samaritan migrant shelter in Juarez said. “The last time they just put your name on a list, called you three months later and told you to come back in another six. This caused stress, it made people ill.”

Fierro and other migrant shelter operators in the Mexican border city across El Paso, Texas, are preparing for a new influx of migrants as the United States gets set to again send asylum-seekers from different countries to await the resolution of their claims in Mexico.

A federal court ordered the Biden administration to restore the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program Donald Trump started when faced with massive caravans of asylum-seekers in 2018 and 2019. Migrant advocates said the measure, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” was a ruse to discourage migration and deny asylum-seekers due process.

Now El Paso will be one of four cities where asylum-seekers as early as next week will be able to file claims. Juarez shelters are already half-filled with migrants expelled from the U.S. under the Title 42 public health order to contain COVID-19 spread. Now they await the return of asylum-seekers and the arrival to the border of additional foreign nationals wanting to make a claim.

“We must prepare to receive them as best we can. We are already near capacity with families from Central America and Mexico. We are remodeling, we are preparing for a spike. We believe the number of migrants will increase,” Fierro said.

The exterior of Iglesia Metodista “El Buen Pastor”, a church run shelter for migrants, is pictured in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, on May 20, 2019. (Photo credit should read PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)

Located near the mountains in Juarez, Good Samaritan can accommodate up to 120 people. Fierro wants to be ready to cope with up to 200 and separate the families from individuals.

He also wonders if the new policy will afford Mexican nationals an opportunity to apply for asylum. A Thursday memo from the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. immigration agencies says it will not under MPP.

“Mexicans also come here fleeing violence. We have people from Michoacan and Guerrero (fleeing) very serious situations. They deserve respect. How will they be considered?” he asked.

The October operational update from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows Mexicans have been the most-apprehended group of migrants on the Southern border this fiscal year. More Mexicans (65,572) were apprehended in October than Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans combined (50,740).

Residents in the western states of Michoacan and Guerrero are suffering internal displacement due to unchecked drug cartel wars. Murders are up 100 to 400 percent in municipalities in the Tierra Caliente region of Mexico where cartels are vying for drug farms, highways that lead to the north and control of illegal activities such as retail drug sales, fuel theft and extortion, Milenio reported.

Fierro says he’s heard harrowing accounts from Mexican migrants. Mexican media for the past two years have been reporting atrocities such as rows of people hanging from bridges in Michoacan and bodies hanging from trees in Zacatecas. The cartels are losing so many foot soldiers they have turned to forcefully recruiting youths, which has prompted some families to flee north.

Very often, in Juarez shelters like Good Samaritan and others, the Mexican migrants feel they have no option but to rest and recoup before making another run at the U.S. border.

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