JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Scarlett and her husband left El Salvador in hopes of giving their three children a better future in the United States.
“They have no opportunities in El Salvador but maybe over here they will continue their studies and become good men and women, be productive,” she said.
So even as hundreds of Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Cubans this week left a tent camp along the Mexican banks of the Rio Grande to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities and request asylum, Scarlett and her family settled in. They intend to wait out a Washington, D.C., federal judge’s stay giving the Biden administration until Dec. 21 to end Title 42 expulsions.
“We will stay here until those four weeks pass. That is the goal, to get ahead and so our children can have a better future,” the Salvadoran mom said. She faced the other side of the river where the U.S. Border Patrol has set up a temporary processing camp for the thousands who have surrendered at a gap in the 18-foot-tall steel-bollard border wall.
The Border Patrol this week told Border Report it will continue to process migrants “safely and efficiently.” The agency said that includes continuing to use Title 42 expulsions and also using Title 8 to place migrants who do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States under removal procedures.
Pedro also plans to stay in Juarez through late December. The former Venezuelan military officer believes he has a good case to win asylum in the U.S. He does not want to risk crossing the border now and be expelled under the still-in-force Title 42 public health policy.
“A lot of things happened to me (in Venezuela). I suffered persecution, both me and my family. If I had a car, they took it away. If I had a motorcycle they took it away,” he told Border Report this week. “I was kidnapped several times. I was tortured by police and the (national) guard.”
Pedro said he is aware of the U.S. judge’s decision vacating Title 42, a Trump-era emergency order to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19. But he’s heard some who left the camp this week have already been expelled and he wants to avoid such a fate.
“It would be terrible to cross now and be sent back to Venezuela. I don’t have money to travel back here,” he said.
Carlos, 26, dropped by the tent camp on Thursday after he heard hundreds of his Venezuelan peers crossed the border the previous night. He heard some remained in detention, some had been expelled and still others had been paroled and released in U.S. territory.
“I am hopeful that I will get to cross, and God will be with me on my journey. I have faith,” he said.
Carlos left Venezuela in September – before the Biden administration on Oct. 12 shut the door on Venezuelan asylum-seekers who come across illegally. Once in Juarez, he managed to get a job and rent a room from a Mexican family that lives near the river.
He said he would probably go back to his job at a Juarez Costco warehouse that afternoon and come back to the river after Dec. 21.
The Venezuelans – and now Central Americans, too – are surviving in the riverbank encampment thanks to the food, clothing, supplies and encouragement they’re getting from Good Samaritans from Juarez and El Paso.
“I’ve been coming for three weeks to bring them blankets, socks and other things they need. Some (volunteers) from Oklahoma City came the other day to bring them bread and oatmeal,” said Gregorio Ramirez Sosa, pastor of a Juarez evangelical church. “If I can help them a little, I will. […] It is sad to see them in these tents. I hope (the United States) will open the doors so all of them can achieve the American Dream and go wherever they want to go.”
Ramirez said the migrants now in Juarez are facing a conundrum. They still risk expulsion to Mexico if they turn themselves in before Dec. 21, but if they stay they’ll have to brave cold seasonal weather in Northern Mexico for which they are not prepared for.
“It’s especially cold and dangerous for the children. They can get sick and that is tragic. Thank God, no one has gotten sick so far,” the pastor said.
Ramirez said he’s heard that some migrants who crossed the border this week are being sent to South Texas and being expelled there.
“All we can do is try to help them while they are here. Thank God, a lot of people are coming here and bringing food. They have not lacked food,” he said.
The Border Patrol said in a statement this week its processing centers are still over capacity, so it is taking various “decompression” measures that may include calling on sectors outside El Paso for assistance.