Two weeks after members of the migrant caravan of Central Americans entered Texas, the law enforcement has already allowed five of the more than 2,200 people to leave and return to Mexico to seek asylum. Now, they face a second journey in a Mexican border town with even worse security.
Carmen Arroyo, who recently gave birth to a baby boy, says her husband and infant son have the latest, and worst, symptoms of homelessness and abuse that could not have come at a worse time.
“They got my husband and my son, too, without food. They didn’t feed them,” Arroyo said, recalling how a woman from Honduras last year tried to forcefully steal her child to continue on to her destination.
Miguel Arroyo says he hopes he can find refuge in Houston, where he can work as a caregiver for some returning Central Americans, but says the travel is already taking its toll. “It’s hard to think. You don’t sleep. And then you get hungry.”
Last month, a second group from the caravan crossed into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, where a state trooper who became suspicious of their presence fired two shots in the air to drive them back. That has not deterred them — nor has the fact that Mexican immigration officials have yet to make the group’s status, or even the caravan’s existence, public.
Miguel Arroyo says their worst fear was that the group would be arrested and returned to Mexico — the very country from which most of the caravan members crossed last year.
But for their half-year stay in El Paso, Texas, the biggest problem has been the lack of support and assistance for migrants from Mexico’s newly elected president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO.
He inherited a federal structure notorious for its lack of coordination and logistics, yet his administration has taken only a handful of action to address the migrant crisis.
“The government is walking on eggshells,” said Erica Vazquez, head of a group called Sociedad Puebla de Desarrollo (National Association of Pueblos de Desarrollo, or Pop Desarrollo), who has been following the situation closely.
For migrants staying at the shelter that the state hosts and can easily run itself, Vazquez says they don’t have many options other than returning to their home countries, despite state efforts to educate them about Mexican citizenship.
The shelters have already provided food and water, but so far, they haven’t offered them refuge from violent storms. “We’re not sure if the state is thinking about that or not,” Vazquez said.
As for food, state officials say most of the migrants have gone back to Mexico, while the state has already paid for the lodging of about 20 families as of Thursday. They hope to pay the hotel bill in the next few days.
“It’s certainly not the solution,” state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who represents the area, told the House Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Committee.
The few thousand mostly Guatemalan and Honduran migrants who arrived in McAllen, Texas, last month have also found themselves getting the runaround from AMLO’s government.
Two families camped out at a construction site outside the border town, trying to apply for asylum for their children. A major issue has been a long backlog in the U.S. immigration courts. But the systems in the U.S. and Mexico don’t mesh easily, with the American authorities able to process asylum applications more quickly, according to a list provided by the border town.
“There’s no signal that we’re going to receive or action we’re going to take,” said the mother of three, who asked not to be identified because her application was still pending. “For us to be here, and not have the opportunity to go home with our babies, it’s difficult.”
“We’re not done yet,” said her husband, Matias Rocha, who traveled from Honduras with the family. “We have a month, two months, more than that, to wait for our opportunity to return to our country.”
The fact that groups like ICE now have an I-14D tracking system, which will give agents information about illegal migrants who have already crossed the border, is not helping matters.