Determined Immigrants Make Powerful Selections At Mexico Border

Denise Cathey / AP

A young man wearing a frown walks to a guest house in Matamoros, Mexico.

Fernando and his wife-in-law looked at the river that separates the US from Mexico and thought about crossing their waters with their two children as they waited for the end of this dangerous world for more than a year.

They were desperate.

The 35-year-old man and his family were repatriated to the Mexican city of Matamoros at the end of 2019 according to Trump’s policy that forced more than 66,000 and aspiring survivors to wait for the southern border while a U.S. judge ruled in their case. Immigrants were given future court documents, often within a few months, and many were left to fend for themselves in dangerous border cities despite the reassurance from US officials that Mexico would protect them.

The hearing, which took place within the courtyard of the tent camp, was not uncommon for immigration cases to be postponed because the applicants had not completed their paperwork or needed more time to get a lawyer. The lawsuit was filed for several months, and in Matamoros, thousands of internally displaced persons and those seeking rescue, many from Central America, Cuba, and Venezuela, fled hoping to live in tents set up on the streets and in parks. The threat of kidnapping by armed robbers has not changed, immigrants rely on food and clothing, and people bathe in Rio Grande, which sometimes leads to bribery. The waiting was difficult, but there was a promise that a day would come when he would be tried.

It’s gone now. In the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, Trump officials have stopped seizing what is known to be a permanent MPP hearing, and in addition to the dangers inside the camp, immigrants were forced to try to enter the U.S. anonymously.

“People are becoming more and more desperate,” Fernando told BuzzFeed News. “What the US has done is to prevent it from entering the country legally. People who want to do this and get involved in criminal activities, many of them have crossed the border illegally.”

The shortage has forced some to pay smugglers to relocate them to the US, ways that immigrant families avoid because they cannot afford it and because the roads are too far away to avoid being caught by Border Patrol agents. Some have been sending their own babies, not a new system but a difficult one with the new coronavirus concept that puts them at risk of being quickly deported to the US. Some immigrants have paid a bribe to the illegal immigration authorities to allow them to cross the Rio Grande on their own. Many will be caught and will soon be returned.

Gaby Zavala, founder of the Resource Center Matamoros, an international charity in the city, said the camp, which currently has 2,500 members, now has about 685 people.

“They have lost hope in this system and are abandoning all their crimes in defense of traffickers,” Zavala told BuzzFeed News. “They’ve lost the idea of ​​having access to security solutions.”

Immigrants who have not tried to travel to the US have returned to their home countries or have begun making new lives in Mexico, says Zavala.

Fernando and his family decided not to cross the border, not knowing how it would affect them if they were caught by Border Patrol agents and did not want to harm their unborn child across a river that had taken so many lives. They decided to stay in the camp, but this came with their own set of problems. The camp, formerly a refugee camp, has become a dangerous haven since the plague.

Made of hundreds of tents and tarps tied with ropes, they live along the Rio Grande. People have been able to enter freely in the past, but since spring, the entire camp is surrounded by a fence built by the Mexican government, which carefully monitors who enters and exits the camp, citing the coronavirus.

Groups like Zavala continue to support visitors from outside and outside the camp, Team Brownsville and Angry Tias and Abuelas continue to feed people, and Global Response Management continues to provide free medical care. The restrictions have made the task of entering the camp exhausting, although groups that have been working with migrants since its inception, Zavala said, have been delayed by officials, leaving donations, such as firewood or tents, for laborers who wash bathrooms to carry.

“It’s a very red tape that never existed before,” Zavala said.

No foreign visitors have been allowed into the house, Zavala said, which is a problem because few residences in the area have been closed due to the epidemic. Zavala and his organization have begun to help families relocate to the city of Matamoros, some of whom have begun work in search of security in Mexico. The low-cost job that Zavala hopes to earn after receiving help from the agency, but he believes it is helping migrants to live a better life today.

The sense of security that the camp offers is also devastating. Seven corpses were washed along the riverbank near the camp. One of them was Rodrigo Castro, a Guatemalan camp leader in the camp.

“Fear inside the camp has increased,” Zavala said. Humans are now on the brink of violence and violence. ”

Gelson, who declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals from immigration officials in the United States, crossed the border without his wife’s permission after a year of waiting in Matamoros. The last fight was the discovery of Castro’s body.

“Rodrigo’s death filled us all with fear and reinforced what we already know – Mexico is not good for immigrants,” Gelson said. “It’s emotionally traumatic and we can feel in our hearts that what happened in the camp is changing.”

The number of organized cases in the camp has increased since the plague began and the walls have risen. People think it’s a bad play on Castro’s death, but very few immigrants want to talk.

Those who relocated to their foreign residency after being repatriated under the MPP last year were seen as a bad eye for Mexican officials and citizens, even though the federal government agreed to receive them from the US. Foreigners who migrated to another country were left to fend for themselves with criminals.

Over time, the number of people living in tents on plazas and nearby roads increased, and the National Institute of Migration (INM), a Mexican immigration agency, relocated them to the beaches of Rio Grande, where refugees were concerned that they would be living far away. it is visible with the mind. There were a lot of ideas coming from those who had moved to another country, although in the end they moved and the tent city continued to grow and make building materials such as bathrooms, laundry facilities, and showers.

Today, the INM carefully monitors those who are allowed to enter the camp through one door and exit and does not allow journalists to enter.

The current establishment makes it difficult for Mexican and US officials to be held accountable for what is inside the camp because fighters and journalists cannot see their status, says Stephanie Leutert, director of the Mexico Security Initiative at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin.

“One of the main reasons people chose to stay in the camp was because they were visible and interesting,” Leutert told BuzzFeed News. You don’t have it anymore. ”

The INM has been refusing to renew foreign travel documents if they do not have a court date in the US, which happens to those who have lost their case and want to appeal, and no one can stay in camps without this, Leutert said. .

“They just feel like there are no more helpers,” he added.

The lack of support is what compelled a mother to send her daughter as a foster child soon, Leutert said. All unidentified trafficking families are difficult because smugglers do not want to take children in trailers, and the process that takes all unidentified families through farms near the border is too expensive for most migrants $ 13,000 to $ 14,000, Leutert said.

It is possible that parents will try to send their children through the same channels and try to associate with them in the US, Leutert said.

“If the search for security is no longer an option and smuggling is expensive the refugees get a job,” he said. “People get holes like they always do.”

Veronica G. Cardenas / Reuters

Corpses, fences, and restrictions have caused many to become more lonely, lonely, and forgotten, says Sister Norma Pimentel, a nun and head of the Catholic Charities in Rio Grande Valley, who also works with immigrants.

“The Mexican government seems to be taking advantage of COVID-19 to control the camp, no foreign nationals are allowed to enter the camp and are able to evacuate anyone who disagrees with them,” Pimentel told BuzzFeed News. “They have suffocated the whole camp.”

The INM did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the condition of the camp.

Meanwhile, many immigrants have avoided entering the city because of the potential for violence, but parents with young or young daughters feel free to leave the camp, where they feel they are at risk, Pimentel said.

“Parents can do nothing if they are abused and exploited,” Pimentel said. “It’s in the air whether it’s safe or not. Some prefer to stay in the camp because they help each other, they live in their community. ”

Pimentel said there are about 4,000 tourists living in the interior of Matamoros.

Veronica Cardenas / Reuters

A bottle of hand sanitizer in the kitchen of a guest house.

Although the MPP courts have not been permanently changed, immigrants knew that the challenges they faced would contribute to their success in the US.

“The work of the MPP is a lie,” said Gelson, who moved from there to the US. “It’s not that you can no longer get protection from Mexico, nor can you work or pay a lawyer to help you.”

After Gelson was repatriated to Matamoros by U.S. border guards last year, he and others slept in a courtyard with other guests. Five people who went to the city in search of work are said to have been kidnapped by terrorists and helped to rescue. Gelson has no family in the US, who can pay a ransom for immigrants, but his family in Honduras cannot afford it.

The State Department’s intelligence service in the state of Tamaulipas in Mexico, which includes cities such as Matamoros, warns U.S. citizens of the dangers of going to the area, seeing, killing, stealing, and being raped by terrorists.

“People say we’re lazy, but you can’t leave the camp,” Gelson said. “If I am stolen, what happens, my child?”

Gelson and his family left Honduras following group threats.

“The terrorist group is connected to our government, there is no refuge in such a small country,” he said. “That’s why we endure hot days, cold nights, and the fear of being caught in Mexico.”

With the death threats in Honduras, the bodies of migrants are found in the river near the camp, and there is no end to the suspension of MPP cases, Gelson said going to the US was the only wise course.

“People are looking for any solution to the camp,” Gelson said. “People there need encouragement, they need hope, because at the moment there isn’t much there.”

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