JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) — Their resources stretched thin over the past 13 months, Mexican officials are worried about a U.S. government plan to send to Juarez asylum seekers detained in Arizona.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that U.S. authorities plan to send a busload of migrants a day from Tucson to El Paso under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, in which asylum seekers are sent to wait out in Mexico court dates in the United States. Arizona is still fielding a large number of unauthorized border crossings yet it doesn’t have facilities to house all those migrants or place them in the MPP program, AP reported.
Juarez already has welcomed some 13,000 migrants under the MPP program, is hosting thousands more awaiting an initial interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and has seen 3,000 Mexicans fleeing drug violence occupy its public spaces. Now officials balk at the idea of getting more migrants from 300 miles away.
“It is a serious issue. Why? Because anyone they send to us from Arizona will add to the (number of) migrants we have from Central America, from the interior of Mexico, those who are otherwise deported through El Paso. And now to have people brought over from Arizona will aggravate the situation,” said Alfredo Seanez, the Juarez City Council member who oversees public safety.
Seanez said Juarez has taken it upon itself to help foreign migrants for humanitarian reasons — but at a cost. The city has spent half a million dollars in food, public safety and other resources funneled to half a dozen private shelters caring for the migrants.
“Now we have to worry about the (cold weather) and in what (physical condition) the migrants will be coming in. We have to help them, but it places us in a position of instability,” he said.
Meantime, the head of the largest church-run shelter in the city told a Juarez newspaper the Mexican government should tell U.S. authorities not to send the migrants to Juarez.
“The government should tell them, ‘we can’t do it,’ but it doesn’t say anything, it doesn’t help, it doesn’t (provide funds),” the Rev. Javier Calvillo of Casa del Migrante told El Diario de Juarez this week.
Casa del Migrante can hold several hundred migrants at a time, but with anywhere from 50 to 140 migrants sent over to Juarez by CBP every day, the shelter is always at capacity.
And, echoing concerns from migrant activists and immigration lawyers in El Paso, Seanez said the non-Mexican migrants, in particular, are preyed upon by criminals.
He said some have been recruited to perform illegal activities — as evidenced by a handful of arrests — while others have suffered violence.
“The (municipal) police just told me about a Central American boy they caught (with drugs). He told them he was abducted and paddled 14 or 15 times with a two-by-four until he agreed” to work for the drug dealers, he said.
No new arrivals from Arizona … yet
Dirving Garcia, the coordinator of the Migrant Assistance Center in Downtown Juarez, said no migrants caught in Arizona had been sent over as of Tuesday. However, he said the center is ready to assist them whenever they come, he said.
Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada said his main concern adequately providing for any more migrants.
“It’s a serious problem, especially with the weather we’re having now,” he said. Cold weather means procuring warm clothes and blankets and making the rounds to ensure that newcomers are not out in the open, exposed to the elements. The El Paso-Juarez area had a low temperature of 42 on Wednesday with widespread showers. Most Central American migrants are coming from much warmer climates.
While most migrants have a roof over their heads in the various church-run shelters and the one federal shelter, many live on improvised tents near the ports of entry to the U.S. The tragedy there, Juarez officials said, is that half the tent-dwellers are children.
The mayor said he is in touch with every day with various American officials from El Paso and has informed them of the situation. The bottom line is that Juarez will try to accommodate any new migrant sent over by the United States, but it’s straining its meager resources, he said.
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