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Juarez shelter struggles for resources as U.S. expulsions, Mexican raids on safe houses swell migrant population

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Kiki Romero Gym low on water, clothes and cleaning products as migrants sit and wait for next chance to cross north

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The U.S. government continues to expel more than 100 migrants per day to Mexican border cities like Juarez, creating some challenges for local officials there.

Recent raids by Mexican authorities at migrant “safe houses” have exacerbated the problem in recent weeks. More than 1,000 migrants rescued from those overcrowded, filthy homes in Juarez have been housed in temporary shelters this year.

Operators of the Kiki Romero city-run migrant shelter in South-Central Juarez say they’re struggling to provide bottled water, diapers, undergarments, feminine hygiene products and other basic needs for their international guests. The shelter on Wednesday held just under 300 migrants; it was built to accommodate a maximum of 400.

“The army comes and provides meals every day, but we’re lacking on most everything else: water, socks, underwear and cleaning products … masks, we need disposable masks, too, and we have to keep the facility clean at all times,” said a volunteer coordinator at the shelter.

About half of the guests here are minors. On Wednesday, children could be seen running up and down the gymnasium-turned-shelter and playing in an outdoor turf field next to port-a-potties and women washing clothes in a row of sinks.

Some of the migrants sounded shell-shocked, having traveled more than a thousand miles from Central America to Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa only to be detained in the McAllen, Texas area and flown to El Paso without a chance to plea for asylum.

“They did not give us an explanation, we didn’t get to sign a paper, nothing,” said Gerson Lopez Miranda, a native of Honduras who entered the United States with his son at Hidalgo County, Texas.

Lopez described how hurricanes last fall destroyed his home. “We had no roof, we had to build a thatch roof” that provides little protection against the elements, he said.

He said moving to another town proved futile, as the locals there felt they had too many problems of their own and not enough resources. The hostility was such that he felt his life would be in danger if he moved to another town anyway.

Lopez told Border Report he paid smugglers $6,500 to get him to Reynosa, Mexico, and cross him to McAllen.

Gerson Lopez Miranda (Border Report photo)

“We crossed the river on a raft. I gave thanks to God for being in the United States,” he said. “But as soon as we were there (the Border Patrol) picked 300 of us […] They put us on a plane to Texas and deported us in buses that left us at the bridge (to Mexico).”

The migrant, who described himself as an Evangelical Christian, said he will try to find a way to get his story heard by U.S. authorities and gain asylum. “We are not coming here to get rich. We just want to provide for our family and give our children a chance. I left my wife in Honduras and she is expecting a child […] we have to try a second time.”

The Mexican government is offering discounted bus rides to Southern Mexico and Central America to those migrants ready to give up and go home.

But some at the shelter expressed hope that the Biden administration will let them in.

“We have a dream to get to the United States to help my family because they are suffering back there,” said Juan Marza, from Guatemala. “We are poor and I have to care for my father, who is sick. We do not earn sufficient money over there, that’s why we are here.”

“We have a dream to get to the United States to help my family because they are suffering back there.”

Juan Marza, from Guatemala

Marza and his young son also were on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection charter airplane from South Texas to El Paso.

While most international news media focuses on Central American migrants, the fact is that the bulk of the current unregulated migration from Mexican border towns to the United States is coming from Mexico. (See CBP chart)

Graph courtesy CBP

Isabel, a teacher from the state of Michoacan – whose countryside has been ravaged by drug wars between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and local groups – sits at the Juarez shelter with her husband and child waiting for an opportunity to apply for asylum.

“We are peaceful people and sometimes (the cartels) want you to join them. We have no need to join them. We are working people,” she said.

Isabel said the refusal to join a drug faction resulted in her husband being unable to sell his crops. Farming unions, authorities and organized crime are all in league in certain places of the state. “They don’t let him work; they pay him what they want. When they say so, he cannot harvest or sell his crops. In his own land. There is a lot of corruption,” she said.

To donate items to the shelter, you can call the Juarez Human Rights Office at 011-52-656-737-0000 or email Rogelio.pinal@juarez.gob.mx

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