Venezuelan migrants in Mexico blindsided by new US immigration rules

By Jose de Jesus Cortes

Oaxaca City, Mexico, Oct 18 (EFE).- Venezuelan migrants in Mexico now face additional obstacles after the United States government announced new immigration rules last week, including the immediate deportation to Mexico of undocumented border crossers from that South American country.

Municipal authorities in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca state, one of the main migrant way stations in southern Mexico, say more than 8,000 foreigners – over 80 percent of them Venezuelans – are now stranded at a large camp set up there in August by the National Migration Institute.

Among that mass of humanity is a group of 12 Venezuelans who have traveled more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) since first entering Mexico.

Two members of the group – Yarly and Antonio Rodriguez – initially set off with four minors on Aug. 3 from Venezuela and entered Mexico 19 days later in Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas state, the main crossing point on the international border with Guatemala.

From there, they traveled 290 km to San Pedro Tapanatepec, where on Oct. 4 they were issued a safe passage permit that allowed them to remain in Mexico for seven days.

They subsequently arrived at an intersection in Oaxaca City, where they have been panhandling for change from motorists in hopes of raising enough money to advance an additional distance of more than 3,000 km to the Mexico-US border.

But on Oct. 12 they were delivered a major setback by the US Department of Homeland Security, which announced a new migration enforcement process that day specifically for Venezuelans.

That agency said under new joint actions with Mexico a process had been established to “lawfully and safely bring up to 24,000 qualifying Venezuelans into the United States” by plane.

However, the DHS announced in that same release that “effective immediately,” Venezuelans who enter the United States illegally by land will be returned to the other side of the border.

“Those who attempt to cross the southern border of the United States illegally will be returned to Mexico and will be ineligible for this process in the future,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was quoted as saying in the release.

The policy marks an abrupt shift because prior to last Wednesday undocumented Venezuelans who entered the US were frequently allowed to stay while their asylum applications were reviewed.

Antonio, however, remains undeterred from his goal of reaching the US and finding well-paid work as a construction worker despite the change in policy and although his safe-passage permit in Mexico has already expired.

“This is a permit they give you in San Pedro … Tapanatepec. They give you seven days to leave the country. You’re not able to leave in seven days,” Antonio told Efe during a pause in his panhandling efforts.

The new US measures come after migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela accounted for more than 55,000 of the undocumented migrants taken into custody at the US-Mexico border in August, an annual increase of 175 percent.

While some migrants like Antonio talk about pressing onward in search of a better life in the US, other migrants in Tapachula, a city on the border with Guatemala, have been asking to be returned to their homelands.

But what is most apparent now in Oaxaca City is basic human necessity.

“Hello, my friend. Help us, please. We’re Venezuelan migrants. God bless you,” read one sign carried by a Venezuelan migrant named Brian seeking assistance from motorists. EFE


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