By Martin Juarez Torres
Reynosa, Mexico, Sep 22 (EFE).- Two shelters and a makeshift camp in this northeastern Mexican border city are being pushed to the limits of their capacity as authorities there strive to provide temporary housing for United States-bound migrants.
The situation has been exacerbated by the recent arrival of thousands of Haitians in that region and the reinstatement of the so-called “Remain in Mexico” program, a policy put in place by US former President Donald Trump’s administration that requires third-country nationals applying for asylum to await processing on the Mexican side of the border.
“Shelters are currently at maximum capacity,” Ricardo Calderon Macias, president of the Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants, told members of the media. “And the Plaza de la Republica (the main square in that city across the border from McAllen, Texas) is completely covered” by a migrant camp.
The arrival in recent days of around 13,000 mostly-Haitian migrants, who managed to evade operations in the southeastern state of Chiapas aimed at preventing their northward advance, has worsened the situation in northern Mexico.
Those migrants have been held by US immigration authorities in a makeshift camp underneath and around the international bridge that connects Del Rio, Texas, with Ciudad Acuña, a city in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila.
But before arriving there many of them made stopovers in other northern Mexican cities such as Monterrey and Reynosa.
The shelters in Reynosa had already been close to full and became overwhelmed by the arrival – by vehicle and on foot – of several hundred Haitians last weekend.
Jhony and two members of his family were part of a caravan of vehicles that was intercepted by Mexico’s National Guard in San Fernando, a municipality in Tamaulipas state.
The migrants – including children, pregnant women and elderly people – were then forced to walk or hitchhike for more than 170 kilometers (105 miles).
“It was really tough. It was a long way. We got tired walking under the sun and sometimes rain. It was really difficult, but there were people who helped us get (to Reynosa),” the Haitian migrant said.
But due to a lack of space in shelters they were forced to sleep in that border city’s main square, where some 2,000 mostly Central American migrants have been living while awaiting resolution of their asylum cases in the US.
On taking office in January, US President Joe Biden suspended the Remain in Mexico policy.
Though the US Supreme Court has ordered the Biden administration to reinstate the program, news of the suspension spurred record numbers of migrants to make the dangerous journey across Mexico in pursuit of the “American Dream.”
In July, US authorities stopped 212,672 undocumented migrants who were attempting to cross the southern border, the highest one-month total in 20 years.
That surge also has created major problems on the other side, with 147,000 undocumented migrants detected in Mexico between January and August, a three-fold increase over 2020.
In a press conference from Del Rio, Texas, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reiterated on Monday that his country’s borders “are not open” and that migrants “should not make the dangerous journey.”
Haitian-born migrants have arrived from Latin American countries such as Brazil and Chile since the US Department of Homeland Security in May announced a new Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for 18 months for Haiti, an impoverished country that has since been rocked by the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moise and a devastating Aug. 14 earthquake that left more than 2,000 dead.
However, only Haitians living in the US before July 29 are eligible for TPS, a point that Mayorkas tried to drive home on Monday on a press call with Haitian media in which he said the influx of migrants in Del Rio has justified an increase in repatriation flights.
“We are committed to developing safe, legal and orderly pathways for migration. What we are seeing now does not qualify as that. We have no choice at this point but to increase repatriation flights,” the DHS secretary said on the call. EFE