Venezuelans adrift in Mexico after US tightens immigration restrictions

By Pedro Pablo Cortes

Mexico City, Oct 23 (EFE).- Chaos and uncertainty for Venezuelan migrants in Mexico has marked the first week after the United States tightened restrictions on its immigration policy, including immediate deportation across its southern border for migrants who illegally cross it to enter the US.

Images of Venezuelan sleeping overnight in the cold along the border, confused migrants arriving on busses in Mexico City and hundreds of them finding themselves stranded in Mexico’s southern states have become common since Washington’s Oct. 12 announcement of the new measures designed to deter illegal migration.

“After the restrictions, many people were left adrift. This was the effect of the restrictions: thousands and thousands of us on the street,” Venezuelan Nestor Sanchez told EFE at an improvised migrant camp in Tapachulas, in Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas, on the border with Guatemala.

Despite the offer to provide 24,000 humanitarian visas, the new US policy of expelling Venezuelans under Title 42 has caused a lot of uncertainty for the migrants, Rodd Gerstenhaber, the head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Mexico and Central America, said.

He said that a majority of the migrants don’t know what to do, whether they should continue northwards to the US border, stay where they are or even return to their home country, Gerstenhaber said in an interview with EFE.

The “immediate effects” of the change in US policy, Doctors Without Borders said, has been for busses owned by Mexico’s National Immigration Institute to depart from northern border cities like Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Matamoros with hundreds of Venezuelans on board en route to Mexico City.

The situation is also “very difficult” in the south for migrants waiting in Tapachula or other immigration waystations, like San Pedro Tapanatepec – in Oaxaca state – where they wait without knowing what their next move will be.

Given the “sudden” change in US policy, no system to accommodate or receive the migrants has yet been established and thus their situation is becoming critical, Gerstenhaber warned.

There are huge numbers of migrants in Mexico and the situation is very tough, with those people frustrated with the delays in getting permits to traverse the country and the lack of availability of basic services for them as they wait, he said.

The US measures come amid a marked increase in the number of Venezuelans along the US-Mexico border, where between October 2021 and August 2022 more than 150,000 Venezuelans have been detained, compared with 50,499 during the same period last year.

But Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that after the expansion of Title 42, which “is not an agreement with Mexico” but rather “a US measure,” the country has received “hundreds, not thousands” of Venezuelans deported by US authorities.

“It’s a procedure that takes time. We’re going to support those who are in our territory, as we always do, with shelters, food, medical attention,” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference on Friday.

Doctors Without Borders warned that Venezuelan migrants’ main need is for information so that they can make a decision what to do, and then they need basic things like healthcare and psychological attention, which the organization can provide.

In Ciudad Juarez, on the border with Texas, international organizations have intervened amid the humanitarian crisis where migrants are sleeping on the streets in the now-colder weather, hoping somehow to be able to get into the US.

“It’s been four days since I bathed. I’ve had no food. God bless those who are supporting us and can continue supporting other people like me,” Venezuelan Jose Raga told EFE upon receiving help at a shelter.

Given the uncertain conditions in Mexico, migrants in cities like Tijuana are asking for flights to return them to Venezuela and others on the southern border are crossing into Guatemala to begin their journeys back home.

But still others believe that it’s better to stay where they are, including Elias Alfonso Rivas, who survived a road accident that killed two migrants last Wednesday in Chiapas.

“To all (my) brothers who are thinking about going back, I say that the best thing for everyone to do is get your visas here, go through the procedures here and stay here because if we could do it in … Latin American countries like Chile, Peru and Ecuador, we can do it in Mexico,” he said.


Related Articles

Back to top button