Migrants wait in the cold for the ruling on Title 42

EL PASO, Texas (HPD) — Hairstylist Grisel Garcés survived a harrowing four-month journey from her native Venezuela, traversing tropical jungles, serving time in immigration detention centers in southern Mexico and stowing away in wagons to reach the border with the United States.

Now, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande (called the Rio Grande in the United States), across from the city of El Paso, Texas, Garcés is eagerly awaiting a US Supreme Court decision related to asylum restrictions that is expected to affect her next year. So are thousands of other migrants at border crossings along the 1,900-mile (3,100-kilometer) border from Texas to California. Meanwhile, winter temperatures are falling across much of the United States and across the border.

She talked about how she fled financial hardship only to find new hardships, like the coldest temperatures she’s ever known in her life.

“Darién was very strong. The train was worse. Here the situation gets worse… And one gives oneself to God,” said Garcés, who left behind a school-age daughter in the hope of reaching the United States with her husband.

Their money has run out and sometimes they don’t have enough food for days. On Thursday, Garcés stood by and watched hundreds of migrants gradually file through a gate in the border fence to be processed by US immigration officials. She fears she will be deported immediately under current asylum restrictions, and she dares not cross the low waters of the Rio Grande.

Dozens of migrants spend nights on the river’s concrete embankment awaiting word of a possible change to asylum restrictions imposed in March 2020. In El Paso, some migrants have turned sidewalks into lodging places outside of a bus station as well as a church faced with the impossibility of immediately finding space in a growing network of shelters supported by the city and religious groups.

In Ciudad Juárez, a group of Venezuelan migrants tried to protect themselves from the cold under some blankets and around a fire in a dirt alley next to a wall.

“We are from the (Venezuelan) coastal area, a lot of sun and the weather affects us,” said Rafael González, 22, a native of La Guaira on the Caribbean coast. “The shelter on this side is very full, at least they don’t want to accept us, supposedly it is very full (full). And we have to be here, making a little bonfire.”

He said everyone is eagerly waiting to find out if the United States will lift restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the border.

Nearby, Venezuelan and Central American migrants were trying to get warm in a three-room shelter with no beds, lying shoulder to shoulder on blankets on the concrete floor.

The shelter is the result of gradual repairs to an abandoned building. The project is the work of pastor Elías Rodríguez from Casa Nueva Voz, concerned about the appearance of a small “tent city” next to the Rio Grande without even a water tap.

Rodríguez said that there were people lighting fires outside because he only had space for 135 people.

The validity of the asylum ban put in place by the Trump administration, a rule called Title 42, was briefly extended Wednesday by Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. It is unknown when the highest court will issue a final decision and the Biden administration has asked it to lift the restrictions, but not before Christmas.

Pursuant to Title 42, authorities have removed asylum seekers from within the United States 2.5 million times, and have turned away most of those who have applied at the border in order, as they say, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Title 42 applies to all nationalities, but has mainly affected people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and more recently Venezuela.

Immigration advocates have demanded that Title 42 be cancelled. They say the policy contravenes domestic and international obligations to people fleeing persecution and has already become obsolete with improved coronavirus treatments.

The conservative-leaning states appealed to the Supreme Court, warning that increased immigration would negatively impact public services and cause “unprecedented calamity” on top of their fears that the federal government lacks a plan to deal with it.

In El Paso, members of the Texas National Guard have taken up positions at the request of the state, while volunteers and agents have expressed concern that some migrants may succumb due to the cold.

Overnight temperatures have dipped below 3.8 degrees Celsius (30 F) and it will get colder in the coming days.

Elsewhere, hundreds of migrants set up a makeshift camp, making tents out of black plastic bags in a park in the Mexican city of Matamoros, near Brownsville, Texas.

Still shivering from the cold after his recent expulsion from the United States, a former Venezuelan army officer, Carlos Hernández, recounted how he, his wife, and their three-year-old daughter had crossed the icy waters of the river, but were returned to Mexican territory when they arrived. to the other shore.

Hernández said that he had had a problem with his superiors in Venezuela for refusing to act against government opponents within the army. He said he hopes to cross again to get to Canada.

He said that the river was very cold when he crossed it with his family.

In the Mexican city of Tijuana, across from San Diego, some 5,000 migrants remained in more than 30 shelters, while others have been able to rent rooms and apartments. Nobody dares to cross illegally by scaling the intimidating border wall that reaches 9 meters (30 feet) high whose top has concertina knives in the area.

Honduran Edwin López said that he arrived in Ciudad Juárez three weeks ago from Tegucigalpa with his wife and three children, ages 4, 9 and 13. They once managed to enter the United States to apply for asylum, but were expelled, he said.

On Thursday, as temperatures dropped, they made a bed with blankets on the floor of a shelter.

“We feel good, we are comfortable. Not really suddenly how we would like it to be in our house, in our home, but what more can I ask for,” López said. “I think this is better than being out there, enduring cold, suddenly exposing ourselves to robbery, mistreatment.”

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