Remain in Mexico reinstatement sparks fear, hope in migrants on US border

By Guadalupe Peñuelas and Carlos Zuñiga

Tijuana/Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Dec 6 (EFE).- The United States’ reinstatement of its Remain in Mexico program has sparked both fear and hope in migrants waiting in Mexico’s northern border cities.

The reinstatement last week of the Donald Trump-era program officially named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forces the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to wait in this country while US authorities evaluate their applications for entry, has been met with disappointment, frustration and concern among migrants and activist communities.

The restarting of the program brings uncertainty for activists such as José María Lara, director of the Youth Movement 2000 shelter in Tijuana, who said that they have not been told what will happen to those who continue to try to reach the US.

The activist recalled that in 2019, when the program began, Central Americans repeatedly tried to obtain political asylum until they became exhausted and abandoned their objective.

Meanwhile, migrant families are also uncertain about what this program entails, as is the case of a woman from Honduras, who has spent more than eight months in Tijuana sleeping in the Youth Movement 2000 shelter.

She said she has no clear information about the program, but reaching the US is her priority and she will wait as long as necessary. Otherwise, she will stay in Mexico, but returning to Honduras is not an option.

For Almadelia Nava, originally from Acapulco, Mexico, things are not much different. She arrived on Sunday with her husband, two daughters and her adolescent son, whose two thumbs were amputated by members of a criminal group.

“They beat him, mistreated him, cut off his fingers and threw him away thinking he was dead. We don’t want to go back for fear that they will grab him,” said Almadelia.

According to an official letter issued by José Luis Pérez of the Mexican Academy of Human Rights, Mexico will receive more than 26,000 migrants to await the resolution of their political asylum process, of them about 10,000 in Tijuana.

In Ciudad Juárez, some migrants view the reestablishment of the program with hope and feel optimistic about the changes, including vaccination against Covid-19 during their stay in Mexico and the reduction in response time to regularize their immigration status.

“It is good news, the time is reduced, although the uncertainty of being at the border and waiting for the process continues,” Luis Sorto, originally from El Salvador, told Efe.

His compatriot Kelvi Santiago Martínez also highlighted vaccination and the possible reduction of wait times.

“Hopefully with this new program we can cross. This gives hope to me and my family. We left our country four months ago and I have been in Juárez for three months,” Martínez told Efe.

For the activists, the big challenge is where to house the migrants. According to information from the International Organization for Migration on this border, of a network of 23 shelters, there are 2,967 beds with 85 percent already occupied.

For Alejandro Encinas, the undersecretary for human rights, population and migration of the interior ministry, Remain in Mexico should be seen as one more example “that a humanitarian vision is being prioritized in migration policy instead of polarizing the relationship with the United States.”

The migration crisis has hit Mexico hard in 2021 with hundreds of thousands of mostly Central Americans and Haitians entering the country seeking to cross into the US.

Mexican authorities have intercepted 228,115 migrants and deported 82,627 from January to October 2021, numbers not seen in more than 15 years.

In addition, 123,000 have requested refuge in the first 11 months of 2021, another record since in previous years there were some 40,000 requests.

The Mexican government has insisted on addressing the causes of migration in Central America to curb the wave, even signing cooperation agreements with the US to promote its development programs. EFE

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