At a crowded border camp in Mexico, frustration and shattered hopes
By Edgar Sandoval
As the sun fell on a makeshift tent city in Mexico less than a mile from the Rio Grande on Tuesday, hundreds of migrants gathered to share the news they had been dreading: Their wait to cross the nearby border into the United States had just grown longer, indefinitely longer.
Word that the U.S. Supreme Court had effectively extended a nearly two-year health policy that has all but closed the border to many migrants swept through the camp, leaving dashed hopes and deep disappointment. Roodline Pierre, 28, among a large number of Haitians gathered around their phones, shook his head as he described how he had escaped a long list of hardships in Haiti with his wife and 14-month-old daughter. “We can’t go back,” Pierre said. “We left everything behind to be here.”
In a brief ruling Tuesday afternoon, the Supreme Court indefinitely blocked an earlier court order that would have lifted the policy known as Title 42 and allowed thousands of migrants to make their way to a U.S. port of entry and seek asylum in the United States.
The policy, which U.S. officials say is no longer needed to protect the country against the coronavirus, allows the swift expulsion of many migrants who cross the border without authorization, and large numbers have been waiting in Mexico for the policy’s expected termination. Instead, the policy could remain in place for several more months.
Pierre pointed to the squalid conditions around him. People were cooking meat on rusty grills and piles of wood. Children walked in and out of tents along the street. Trash and used toiletries were scattered around on an empty dirt lot.
“These are no conditions for children,” he said. “No person should live like this. We want a better life, and now we are stuck here for much longer.” The policy did not make sense, he said. If U.S. authorities worried about people bringing COVID-19 to the United States, he said, why would they not test each person individually and allow those free of infection to apply for asylum?
A line of men, women and children had formed outside a nearby shelter, Senda de Vida, which featured a large mural of a man walking between two flags, one from Mexico and one from the United States. Most shelters along the border have reached their capacity, and those who cannot gain entry have had to find their own places to sleep. Daisy Rezino, 26, who had arrived from Guatemala a week earlier with her two small daughters, turned away from the growing line, disappointed.
Her two girls cuddled with her as nightfall brought colder winds.
“There is no room for any more people in there,” she said. “We are going to have to sleep out here.”
Rezino had also been hoping for better news. She was not sure if migrants from Guatemala would be turned away at the border with Title 42 remaining in place, but she was afraid to try and face potential deportation.
“We went through a lot to get here,” Rezino said. “I don’t understand why they treat us like this. If they only saw the way we have to sleep here, no food to eat and no roof over our heads.”
The extreme cold temperatures were especially difficult during the Christmas holiday, especially at night, Rezino and other migrants said. But with temperatures rising Tuesday, many of the migrants who were camped outside said they were determined to stay as long as it took.
For some, like Mario Vazquez, 57, and his friend Jose Lopez, 33, both from Honduras, returning home was no longer an option. Both men sold most of their belongings to afford the trip to the border. Along with their families, they had been sleeping for the past two weeks in tents made of sheets and other rudimentary materials.
They stood silent for several minutes after learning that their chance to cross and plead their case before an asylum judge had been indefinitely postponed.
They wanted to work in the United States, where family members were waiting for them, and would not be a burden, the men said. But their plight seemed out of their hands.
“I wanted to cross to the United States,” Vazquez said. “But we will cross when God allows us to cross. It is all up to him.”
Lopez put his hands in his pockets and bowed his head in agreement.