Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez: A fresh start for some migrants, hardship for others

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb 24 (EFE).- Migrants who reach this northern border city across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, tell tales of both success and failure.

While some applicants for asylum in the United States suffer deprivations while trying to regularize their immigration status in Mexico and find work, others with visas have found dignified employment and a place to live with their families after a journey fraught with hardship and perils.

One of the success stories has been that of 33-year-old Honduran migrant Santiago Castellanos, who arrived in that city of mainly foreign-owned assembly plants – known as maquiladoras – accompanied by his wife and their 12-year-old son.

“I arrived in Ciudad Juarez nine months ago. I left my country in search of the American dream because violence and poverty forced me to flee. The journey here was rough. We were very cold and hungry. We walked a lot and the trek was hard,” he told Efe.

Castellanos now holds a work permit and says that document has allowed him to establish a life for himself and his family in Mexico, a country where an estimated 43 percent of the population lives in poverty but that also offers good employment opportunities in some regions.

“I thank the Mexican authorities who lent me a hand, and I’m grateful to the Mexican people,” said the migrant, who now works at a bar in Juarez, the biggest city in Chihuahua state.

But his experience contrasts sharply with that of thousands of other migrants who have arrived in Mexico’s northern border region.

Many have been forced to wait there under the US’ “Remain in Mexico” program, a policy that forces foreigners to stay in that country while their asylum claims are processed in the US.

While trying to regularize their immigration status, a lot of these people have been housed at migrant shelters in Ciudad Juarez such as Casa del Migrante.

One of the asylum-seekers living there is Guatemalan migrant Antonio Pascual.

“If my goal of crossing to the United States doesn’t work out, I’d like to stay here, find work and rent a room to live. But the laws are strict,” the man told Efe, adding that his situation became more complicated after his official Guatemalan documents were stolen.

Another resident of that shelter is Honduran Hector Fajardo.

“It’s a big struggle to find work. They ask for references, (proof of registration with the) RFC (Federal Taxpayer Registry), and when you find work, the pay is very low. And they take advantage of our condition and offer a lower salary,” said the migrant, who is authorized to remain in Mexico but does not yet have a job.

Father Javier Calvillo, a Catholic priest who is the director of the Casa del Migrante shelter, told Efe the main problems many migrants from Haiti and elsewhere face in Ciudad Juarez – home to at least 15,000 foreigners – are the inability to speak Spanish and a lack of documentation.

He therefore urged business owners and government authorities to facilitate their insertion in the labor market.

“Migrants are people who have fled violence and are seeking political asylum. There needs to be a plan among the three levels of government and business leaders” to address those people’s needs, the activist said. EFE


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