By Guadalupe Peñuelas
Ciudad Juarez, Aug 18 (EFE).- Migrants and activists are living in uncertainty in Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez because of the recent ruling by a US judge to restore the controversial “Remain in Mexico” program, which forced migrants to stay in Mexico while their asylum requests were being processed by US authorities.
A federal judge in Texas last Friday ordered the White House to reinstate the controversial Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the Remain in Mexico program, implemented in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump.
The judge’s decision gives the Joe Biden administration seven days to appeal the ruling or, if not, to once again relaunch the MPP.
The ruling comes amid a wave of migration to the US, which in July apprehended 212,672 undocumented migrants along its southern border, the largest number in 20 years.
News of the court order has spread like wildfire through the nearly full shelters housing migrants in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.
If the ruling stands, the scenario for migrants is discouraging and would increase the demand for food and housing from migrants and asylum petitioners, needs that are being covered at great cost to Mexico’s civil society.
“I’m afraid to remain here because of the danger from the (drug) cartels. There are good people, but you never know, and I’m afraid to speak with other people. I’ve had nightmares where I dream that they kidnap us or kill us,” Salvadoran Graciela Arrieta told EFE on Wednesday.
At age 27, Arrieta – a teacher by profession – crossed into the US at McAllen, Texas, several weeks ago along with her son and husband, but she was deported and for the past nine days has been in Ciudad Juarez, where she said she will try to make the border crossing once again.
“It was too risky to go to the United States. You’re exposing the lives of the kids and also your own life because you don’t know what you’re facing,” she said, adding that during the trek she and her family were kidnapped and had to pay ransom to be released.
Another similar situation is that of Guatemalan Magda Catalina Gomez, 33, who – despite the difficulties of the journey – is not giving up on the American Dream.
“For me, being here is something I’ve always hoped for. My goal is to get to the United States. In my country, I was a small businesswoman, but there’s a lot of crime. I paid off two bands of criminals who demanded money from me to allow me to work, and I had to close (my business),” she told EFE, adding that she left two daughters in her homeland and is traveling with her young son.
“I’ll wait the necessary time to be able to enter the US legally,” she said.
According to official figures, more than 13,000 people who remained in Mexico under the MPP program have already been let into the US to continue their asylum procedures, but the entire process will take much longer.
Ismael Martinez, the director of the Pan de Vida shelter, told EFE that this possible return to the MPP program is a nightmare for the migrants.
“There are still MPP people who are waiting to be processed and it’s difficult for them. In the shelters, it’s tough with food, clothing and cleaning items,” he said.
He added that currently there are 200 migrants in the Pan de Vida shelter, but there have been occasions in which it has housed up to 460.
“Biden promised during his campaign that migrants would have better opportunities and to a certain degree he’s fulfilled that, but it’s already too many people. The refugees are running many risks. They extort them, they come running from violence and here the same thing is happening to them,” the activist said, adding that right now he has three families under the Remain in Mexico program in his shelter.
Oscar Chacon, the executive director of the Alianza Americas non-governmental organization said he wanted the migrants to inform themselves so that their rights are not violated and mentioned that the US immigration policy has been disappointing under several administrations.
“They keep trying to displace people like they were a cancer, like they’re something really harmful, something to get rid of. With this (judge’s) decision, it opens up a broader front for the serious violation of the human rights of migrants, including Mexicans,” he said.