Stranded Venezuelans stage protest at tent camps on US-Mexico border

By Guadalupe Peñuelas

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Oct 27 (EFE).- Hundreds of Venezuelans held a silent protest Thursday at tent camps on both sides of the United States-Mexico border to express their displeasure with Washington’s recent immigration restrictions.

Migrants consulted by Efe in Ciudad Juarez, located across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, said they are bringing attention to the plight they face in their homeland, while also raising awareness about insufficient support from Mexican authorities and non-governmental organizations.

One of those individuals held a US flag to symbolize the political persecution he says he was subjected to in leftist-led Venezuela, a country hard-hit by US sanctions that has been mired in a years-long economic crisis.

“I’m here with the hope of receiving political asylum. I can’t go now to the United States, but for me the flag represents hope,” the man, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, told Efe.

The migrant said it took him 75 days to reach Ciudad Juarez and that he was robbed four times during the journey.

It was therefore a crushing blow for him when he learned that the US, in an abrupt policy shift announced on Oct. 12 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), would not allow him to cross the border and apply for asylum.

Under a new expansion of Title 42, the US pandemic-related policy that has allowed border agents to quickly expel migrants to prevent the spread of Covid-19, undocumented Venezuelans who arrive at the border are to be detained and sent back to Mexico, which has agreed to temporarily receive them.

The new “joint actions with Mexico” also allow up to 24,000 Venezuelans who arrive by plane and have a US sponsor to apply for a humanitarian parole program and be granted temporary permission to work in the country.

But immigration experts say those conditions are out of reach for many Venezuelan asylum-seekers.

Prior to Oct. 12, Venezuelans had been encouraged to make the long journey to the US, secure in the knowledge that the lack of formal diplomatic relations between their leftist-led homeland and Washington meant they could not easily be sent back.

Now many of these migrants are stranded in a city where temperatures can drop to nearly 6 C (43 F) in the early-morning hours.

“If we were to go to a shelter, the struggle wouldn’t be so apparent. Now that we’re out in the elements, it’s more noticeable, the unnamed migrant said.

Another migrant stranded in Ciudad Juarez is Samir Zabian, who said his plan is still to reach the US despite the DHS’ new migrant enforcement process for Venezuelans.

“We ask (US President Joe) Biden to put his hands on his heart and think things through well. There are lots of kids who are hungry and cold,” he said.

The individuals stranded on the border are “good people who are looking for an opportunity to work,” he added.

Hundreds of deported Venezuelans have already arrived in Mexican border cities following the expansion of Title 42, a decades-old section of the public health code that then-President Donald Trump implemented at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic to restrict land border crossings.

Until two weeks ago, that policy had not affected Venezuelan migrants because limited US-Venezuela diplomatic relations had made it difficult to repatriate them. And due to those complications, Mexico had refused to take them in.

Mexico now says it will temporarily accept “some” Venezuelan migrants, apparently as part of plan coordinated with Washington to deter others from making the treacherous northbound journey.

Fernando Garcia, director and founder of the US-based Border Network for Human Rights, told Efe that the Biden administration’s policy shift has created a humanitarian crisis.

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