Expelled from US at night, migrant families weigh next steps


REYNOSA, Mexico (AP) – In one of Mexico’s most notorious cities for organized crime, migrants are expelled from the United States overnight, exhausted from the journey, disillusioned at not having the opportunity to seek asylum and in a crossroads on where to go. following.

Marisela Ramírez, who returned to Reynosa around 4 a.m. Thursday, brought her 14-year-old son and left five other children, one only 8 months old, in Guatemala because she couldn’t pay more money to smugglers. Now, facing another harrowing choice, he has been inclined to send his son alone across the border to settle with a sister in Missouri, aware that the United States is allowing unaccompanied children to apply for asylum.

“We are in the hands of God,” said Ramírez, 30, in a barren park with dying grass and a large gazebo in the center that serves as a refuge for migrants.

Lesdny Suyapa Castillo, 35, tearfully said that he would return to Honduras with his 8-year-old daughter, who lay under the gazebo breathing heavily with her eyes partially open and flies circling her face. After being unpaid for three months of work as a nurse in Honduras during the pandemic, she wants a steady job in the United States to send an older daughter to medical school. A friend from New York encouraged her to try again.

“I would love to go, but a mother does not want to see her son in this condition,” she said after being dropped off in Reynosa at 10 at night.

The decisions unfold amid what Border Patrol officials say is an extraordinarily high 30-day average of 5,000 daily encounters with migrants. Children traveling alone are allowed to stay in the U.S. to apply for asylum, while nearly all single adults are expelled to Mexico under pandemic-era rules that deny them the opportunity to seek protection. humanitarian.

Families with children under the age of 7 are allowed to stay in the United States to apply for asylum, according to a Border Patrol official who spoke to reporters Friday on condition of anonymity. Other family members, only 300 of 2,200 on Thursday, are evicted.

Reynosa, a city of 700,000, is where many migrants are returned after being expelled from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the most heavily traveled corridor for illegal crossings. The Border Patrol has said that the vast majority of migrants are expelled to Mexico after less than two hours in the United States to limit the spread of COVID-19, meaning that many arrive when it is dark.

In normal times, migrants are returned to Mexico under bilateral agreements. limiting deportations to daylight hours and larger crossings. But under the authority of a pandemic, Mexicans and citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras can be expelled to Mexico overnight and in smaller towns.

Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott acknowledged in an interview last year that agreements limiting times and places for deportations are suspended “on paper,” but he said US authorities are trying to accommodate the wishes of the Mexican officials. The United States also coordinates with nongovernmental organizations.

“I would never sit here and look at you and say that Tijuana is not dangerous, Juarez is not dangerous, Tamaulipas (state) is not dangerous,” Scott said. “However, much of it is like any other city in America. There are certain cities in the United States where there are areas that are very dangerous and there are areas that are not. “

Tamaulipas, which includes Reynosa, is among the five Mexican states that the US State Department says US citizens should not visit. A travel warning from the USA. says heavily armed criminal groups patrol Reynosa in marked and unmarked vehicles.

More than 100 fathers, mothers and children who were expelled overnight waited in a plaza in front of the Mexican border crossing at dawn on Saturday, many embittered by the experience and afraid to venture into the city. Several said they left Central America in the past two months because they could finally afford it, but information about President Joe Biden’s more immigrant-friendly policies contributed to their decisions. Some reported paying smugglers up to $ 10,000 per person to reach US soil.

Michel Maeco, who sold his land in Guatemala to pay smugglers $ 35,000 to bring his family of five, including 15, 11 and 7-year-olds, said he was going home after a 25-day trip. He left Guatemala after hearing “on the news” that Biden would allow families to enter the United States.

Maeco’s family was expelled to the streets of Reynosa at 3 am on Saturday.

“Supposedly (Biden) was going to help migrants, but I don’t see anything,” said Maeco, 36.

A Honduran woman who declined to give her name said she left two months ago because her home was destroyed by Tropical Storm Eta and she heard that Biden would “open the border” for 100 days, not knowing that the president’s 100-day moratorium to deportations, suspended. by the courts, it does not cover newcomers. She planned to send her 9-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son to live alone with her aunt in Alabama while she returns to Honduras.

Underscoring the dangers, the Border Patrol said Friday that a 9-year-old Mexican girl died crossing the Rio Grande near the city of Eagle Pass.

The Mexican migrant protection agency, Grupo Beta, persuaded many people who arrived during the night to take them by bus to a distant shelter. The crowds in the nearby park had decreased from a few hundred migrants days earlier.

Felicia Rangel, Founder of Sidewalk School, which provides educational opportunities for asylum-seeking children in Mexico’s border cities, sees the makings of a squalid migrant camp like in nearby Matamoros, which recently closed.

“If they manage to establish themselves in this gazebo, this will become a camp,” he said as a church distributed chicken soup, bread and water to migrants for breakfast. “They don’t want another camp in their country.”

Martín Vásquez is among the migrants who remain for now. The 19-year-old was expelled after being separated from his 12-year-old brother, who was considered an unaccompanied child and will almost certainly be turned over to a grandfather in Florida. He said he was willing to go back to Guatemala, where he worked for a moving company, but wanted to wait a bit “to see what the news said.”

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