CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – Central American migrant families are saying they made the decision to illegally cross the border into the United States at Ciudad Juarez and turn themselves in to immigration authorities in El Paso, Texas, because of the long waiting list to have their asylum claims processed by the US government.
“People don’t want to be in Ciudad Juarez waiting for a long time. What they say is the 80 percent of that (asylum) list is people from Cuba, but ... the Border Patrol detentions in El Paso are people from Central America, and from Brazil,” Blanca Navarrete Garcia, the director of the Comprehensive Human Rights in Action association (DHIA), told EFE.
The head of the DHIA, an organization that provides legal assistance to migrants on the border said that there are more than 3,500 people on the list of those waiting for appointments to request asylum in the US.
She said that the families not yet on the list are opting to cross the Rio Grande, the river that divides the US and Mexico, and are allowing themselves to be apprehended by the Border Patrol, although that does not ensure that their asylum requests will be processed any faster on the US side of the frontier.
Navarrete Garcia said that Brazilian migrants had not put themselves on the list being compiled by the State Population Council. However, she said that authorities have counted about 400 Brazilians among the migrants massing in the area.
Meanwhile, the coordinator of the State Population Council’s Migrant Attention Program, Dirvin Garcia Gutierrez, told EFE that they have noticed that migrants are deciding to put themselves in direct contact with US immigration agents out of desperation at the long waiting time in Mexico to have their asylum requests processed.
“Estimates are that they must wait about two months to be called for their appointments, although the times can vary. (US authorities) don’t call people every day. For example, last weekend, they didn’t speak to anyone and on Monday they called (only) 15,” he said.
On April 8, it was announced that federal Judge Richard Seeborg, in the Northern District of California, had ruled that the Donald Trump administration must stop returning migrants to Mexico while they awaited their asylum hearings.
However, the Trump administration secured a temporary win in the courts when it successfully appealed Seeborg’s ruling to halt the “Remain in Mexico” policy.
“It was like a temporary suspension, a way to protect (migrants), but the lawsuit continues. Until we have a definitive resolution in the US courts, people are going to continue returning,” she said.
The Mexican government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who came into office on Dec. 1, created a special humanitarian visa authorizing Central American migrants to enter and work in Mexico, but it only implemented the special plan up until January.
Thus, several groups of migrants have gained entry into Mexico without having to wait on the Guatemalan border for Mexican authorities to issue them the ID card.
In October 2018, thousands of Central Americans – mostly Hondurans and Salvadorans – left their countries in several caravans to cross Mexico in the hopes of getting to the US and requesting asylum, an exodus that sent diplomatic shock waves reverberating between the US and Mexico.
On Monday morning, about 3,000 migrants began moving as a group toward the town of Huixtla, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, with the goal of getting to the US. The group consists mostly of Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans.
Estimates are that around 10,000 migrants are currently in southern Chiapas, including about 2,000 at the International Bridge between Guatemala and Mexico, and in the coming days they could began trekking northwards in a new caravan.