EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – With the U.S. government expelling up to 200 migrants a day and Mexico applying COVID-19 protocols in shared spaces, shelters in Juarez, Mexico, are now at or near capacity.
“The pandemic has put space limitations on all the shelters,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute. “That includes those catering to the needs of longer-term populations, quarantine facilities for the newly arrived and those taking in (migrants) recently expelled” from the United States.
The situation is raising concerns at shelters like Good Samaritan in South Juarez, where the Rev. Juan Fierro has been trying to accommodate upward of 100 migrants at a time on any given day.
“Right now, we have 85 guests, mostly families from Honduras and Guatemala. Last week we had 150 and I expect we’ll have that many in the next few days,” said Fierro, a Methodist pastor.
Good Samaritan in early 2019 posted a “No more room” sign on its fence, as the surge of asylum seekers from Latin America overwhelmed sleeping — and even walking — spaces. This time, the numbers may not be as great, but COVID-19 protocols limit how many people can be inside at any given time.
Juarez authorities have reported that some expelled migrants placed on quarantine upon arrival tested positive for the coronavirus.
Fierro said the shelter saw some departures once the Biden administration began rolling back the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, also known as “Remain in Mexico.”
However, the expulsions of single migrants apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol and migrant families flown to El Paso from South Texas only to be deported to Juarez also is figuring in the space crunch.
“The situation is being exacerbated by the Biden administration’s expulsions of migrants into Ciudad Juarez” under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order, Corbett said.
“We are talking between 100 and 200 people every day, and that is putting an enormous strain on the shelter network and the service providers who are attempting to provide a humanitarian response to the migrants in Juarez.”
The city of Juarez earlier announced it would be turning the Kiki Romero sports arena into a migrant shelter, but has yet to open the facility.
Corbett is worried about the fate of migrant families who are expelled from El Paso to Juarez and can’t find room at shelters.
“These migrants are expelled right into Downtown Juarez and they are vulnerable to smugglers, vulnerable to exploitation,” Corbett said. “I’m very concerned that we are going to be exacerbating the human smuggling that takes place (in Juarez) as a result of these irresponsible expulsions.”
Corbett called for a “more robust response” from federal and local governments in Mexico. “But we also need the Biden administration to stop this practice of expelling vulnerable migrants,” he said.