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In a camp, the US offers hope to asylum seekers who have previously been denied.

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In a camp, the US offers hope to asylum seekers who have previously been denied.

 

Officials told some asylum seekers in a camp along the US-Mexico border that the US government would reopen their cases and that they would finally be able to enter the US to wait out the asylum process.

The new opportunity for previously rejected asylum seekers came as Mexican authorities worked to close an improvised camp along the Rio Grande’s banks, across from Brownsville, Texas, that had hosted thousands of asylum seekers over the past two years.

Late Friday night, a Mexican Foreign Ministry official announced via Twitter that the camp’s last asylum seekers with pending cases had been processed, and the camp had been closed. Others who had their asylum cases closed but were informed they could be reopened were advised to seek shelter. On Saturday, however, about 50 people stayed in the camp until they were eventually transferred to a shelter and the camp closed later that day.

On Friday and Saturday, the US Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment.

Last month, the Biden administration began processing asylum seekers from Mexico who had been forced to wait out the lengthy process under former President Donald Trump’s administration. The Matamoros camp was one of the most prominent manifestations of a policy introduced in response to high numbers of asylum seekers by an administration that operated in a variety of ways to make obtaining protective status in the United States more difficult.

On Saturday, Juan Antonio Sierra, the director of the Matamoros migrant shelter, announced that he had committed to housing asylum seekers with closed cases in order to close the camp.

Sierra said that the US Consul in Matamoros, Yolanda Parra, had met with representatives from the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, Mexico’s National Immigration Institute, Sierra, and some migrants the day before. Sierra said that she understood that the US government would consider reopening closed cases for those who lived in the camp.

Questions were directed to the Department of Homeland Security by the US State Department.

Sierra said, “I was going to take them to the Casa del Migrante until it was certain they were going to cross.” He stated that the aim was to prevent new people from arriving at the camp and to ensure that those who were already there would only cross the border until it was clear that their cases would be reopened and that they would not be deported immediately.

Sierra explained, “They’re trying to reopen (the cases).” “You’re not going to send anyone to be deported to their home country.” However, he said that the migrants were desperate enough that they “wanted to go without assurances.”

When asked whether the revived cases would cause more people to flock to the border, Rev. Francisco Gallardo, the shelter’s director, said, “the avalanche is already here, a lot of people are coming.” He cautioned that things could get more complicated because there were signs of a new camp forming.

More than 200 migrants have now taken up residence in the shelter.

Just a few hundred asylum seekers remained in the riverside camp by Friday afternoon. Workers tore down makeshift tents and hauled portable toilets away. The camp lost control on Friday night. Despite the pledge that their cases would be reopened, many people resisted leaving the camp, fearing that a smaller public space would enable the US government to disregard their dwindling numbers.

Personnel from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told a Honduran asylum seeker who has lived in the camp for two years with her son on Friday that “the United States had authorized the reopening of our cases and that we had to wait several days for them to sanction the crossing to the United States.”

The woman, a former police officer who requested anonymity to avoid jeopardizing her case, claimed that her case had previously been rejected by the US government. She appealed with the assistance of attorneys, but was denied again in November. She has since lodged an appeal.

She expressed her optimism by saying, “Now there’s hope.”

She said that others had been told the same thing. Some were told their case could be resolved in a few days, while others were told it would take ten days. They didn’t give her a date, she said.

Previously, US officials have not stated whether people would be able to return to the United States at a later date to seek asylum claims that were rejected or dismissed under Trump’s so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” They’ve defined the re-entry of an estimated 26,000 people with active cases as a first step, but they haven’t specified what the next steps will be.

The Matamoros camp has served as an uneasy reminder of the US and Mexican governments’ extraordinary policies against its people.

It was gradually given some organization and basic sanitation and health services by non-governmental organizations and volunteers, but it still remained in a city under the control of organized crime. Many people were afraid of being kidnapped or extorted if they ventured outside the country’s borders.

Human Rights Watch said in a study released Friday that migrants in Mexico are “consistently subject to rape, abduction, extortion, robbery, and psychological trauma.”

“The US and Mexican governments have abandoned tens of thousands of migrant families, including Venezuelans seeking safety from torture, abuse, and arbitrary detention, leaving them vulnerable to extortion and violence in Mexico,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

In late January, 19 people were shot and killed near Camargo, upriver from Matamoros near the Texas border, 16 of whom were Guatemalan migrants. In connection with their murders, a dozen state police officers have been arrested.

A Honduran woman and her 10-year-old son were shot and seriously injured in Nuevo Laredo, another Tamaulipas border area, on Monday.

Juan Carlos Ponce, the Honduran consul in the city, confirmed the attack and said they were still hospitalized on Thursday, but he declined to give any specifics because they were victims of a serious crime.

On Thursday, 10 Democratic members of Congress told U.S. Secretary of Antony Blinken that the U.S. government must help to push for greater protections for migrants and asylum seekers waiting in Mexico.

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