Social Issues

Migrants pack shelters in Mexican border city

By Abraham Pineda Jacome

Matamoros, Mexico, Jun 30 (EFE).- Migrant shelters and churches in this city of 500,000 on Mexico’s border with the United States can no longer keep pace with the need for lodging amid the ongoing surge of undocumented people in pursuit of the “American Dream.”

The institutions trying to offer the migrants succor are running out of space and supplies even as authorities in Matamoros struggle to cope with a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Though the infamous makeshift camp on the banks of the Rio Grande river that was home to as many as 2,000 mainly Central American migrants at the peak was shut down months ago, the northbound flow of people hasn’t stopped.

Those 2,000 people were among thousands forced to await the processing of their US asylum requests south of the border under the Remain in Mexico program, imposed during the 2017-2021 administration of President Donald Trump.

More than 180,000 migrants were detained trying to enter the US in May, according to figures from Customs and Border Protection, the highest one-month total in two decades.

“The crisis is very great and no municipal, state or federal authorities have taken a hand,” evangelical pastor Victor Barrientos, leader of the Church of the Mighty Wind, told Efe here Wednesday.

The church on the south side of Matamoros was providing shelter to 300 people, far beyond its capacity, and on Monday, the migrants were told to leave.

With no money, most of them remained on the street in front of the church. Some spent the night on the rooftops of nearby homes.

Neighbors came together to provide meals for the 130 adults and 65 minors who remain on the street.

“We appeal to the government, to organizations,” Venezuelan migrant Jhonatan Manuel Mane said. “It is necessary to be conscious of the situation in regard to the pandemic, safety and hygiene.”

Jhonatan, who arrived in Matamoros nearly a month ago with his wife and their five children, has already applied for asylum in the US, but has yet to receive a response.

Though people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador make up the lion’s share of the migrants, the ranks of those seeking refuge in the US include internally displaced Mexicans such as Ericka Rodriguez Bravo.

“As a mother, the only thing that matters to me is to see my children far from the threats and crime,” she told Efe.

Ten members of her extended family, including a newborn, are now in Matamoros. After sleeping in the open for the first few days, they now have some shelter thanks to a local family who took pity on them.

The clan decided to abandon their home in the poor southern state of Guerrero after the patriarch was gunned down and his wife succumbed to illness.

They received threats when they tried to sell the family homestead, forcing them to leave with nothing but what they could carry.

“We were fleeing, knocking on doors. God willed that we received help to get here,” Ericka said. EFE apj/dr

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