They could not find out where they were or where they were going when the guards told them: “Keep going.”
They walked forward, as instructed, across an unfamiliar bridge and then suddenly they were in Mexico. Or, more exactly, back to Mexico. But 800 miles from where they had come to America.
In a chaotic situation on the southern border, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are escorting migrants across the bridge that links downtown El Paso, Texas, with the adjacent city in Mexico, Ciudad Juárez, and kicking them out of the US before they know what it is. happening.
A young mother sat directly on the sidewalk on the Mexican side of the international bridge linking the two cities and hugged her nursing son as they snuggled in the cold weather of late March.
The girl, no more than 18 months old, dressed in a pink sweater and wrapped in a blanket first fed, then slept in her arms, unaware of the moments when her bewildered mother let a tear roll down her face.
At one point the woman covered the little girl’s hands with socks to prevent her from crying from the cold wind, even though the mother did not have her own jacket.
The view is all too familiar in Juarez, where dozens of migrants are unceremoniously removed from the US on a daily basis through a health protocol implemented by the Trump administration, known as Title 42, where migrants can be removed. To prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country. WE.
Some undocumented people who cross the border between the United States and Mexico are being admitted to the United States to begin the asylum process, mainly unaccompanied minors and, theoretically, parents with very young children.
But the majority of adult migrants and families currently being detained in the United States are being expelled, though often not before authorities on the US side take them on a confusing and winding journey.
“I went through Reynosa, I went to the wall and immigration picked us up,” explained Joel Duarte Méndez, 25, who had originally traveled from Honduras.
Reynosa is located at the eastern end of the Texas-Mexico border, 754 miles from the cities of Juarez and El Paso at the western end.
After crossing from Reynosa to Texas, Méndez and his two-year-old son, Héctor, were briefly detained.
“Then they put us on a plane, then from there they put us on a bus and they just threw us here,” he said, pointing to the international bridge that connects El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.
US border agents had lined up the group of people after they got off the bus, led them to part of the bridge, and then “told us to ‘carry on,’” Méndez said.
He clung to Hector, the boy wrapped in a jacket that obviously fit his father, who was braving the cold with a T-shirt.
“I came with my son to give him a better life,” Mendez said.
His journey from Honduras to the border took 12 days, he said. He owned a coffee farm and a home in Honduras, but both had been destroyed when massive hurricanes hit the country last November.
Since the climate crisis is believed to be causing stronger hurricanes, Méndez and Héctor have effectively become climate refugees.
He used what was left of his money to pay for the trip, he said.
“We thought they were letting in people with children five and under [the US]So I said, ‘this is my chance to go’ and, well, that just wasn’t the case, ”he told The Guardian, dejected.
Title 42 was the last big chunk of Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda that nearly closed the U.S.-Mexico border to the undocumented in the pandemic.
The Joe Biden administration has rescinded Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy, where migrants were forced to wait in often dangerous border cities in Mexico while their asylum applications from violent countries were processed in the US. , Which sometimes took years.
But for those who no longer have ongoing legal cases in the US, Biden continues to use Title 42 while the pandemic persists. Many of those who cross the border now are not even being processed officially in a border patrol or a Department of Health and Human Services facility, nor are they released to relatives in the states to wait for an immigration court appointment. They have just been expelled to Mexico.
Mendez and the breastfeeding mother are among a group of about three dozen migrants, almost all parents with young children, whom The Guardian saw being expelled from the United States in recent days.
In Juárez, Mexican authorities escorted them to a closed area right next to the bridge, where journalists were not allowed to interview them.
But the tears were visible and many seemed confused. The last mother in line had a small child in her arms and another small child walking in front of her, both children were crying, as tears began to run down the woman’s face when she realized she was in Mexico.
The group spent more than an hour in the closed area, before it was opened and several families took to the streets of Juárez, leaving them to fend for themselves.
Those who had contacts in the area asked for directions to taxis or called someone to pick them up, but others simply sat on the street, unsure of their next move.
One parent, who was unwilling to share his name, explained that since they briefly crossed into the United States they had never been told where they were or where they were going.
“We were there in the detention center, supposedly waiting for a family member of ours to be contacted. [in the US] so they could come looking for us or send us looking, but no, they lied to us, ”he said.
The other parent said, “It is completely false that they let us in with small children.”
There are conflicting reports on why migrants are being transported from one end of the Texas border to the other, ranging from accounts of overflowing emergency shelters on both sides of the border, especially due to the Covid-19 restrictions that have closed. many or reduced capacity. , to cruel tactics simply to dissuade migrants with an extra dose of desperation.
Nearby, another family: three children huddled around their mother, the father pacing back and forth. He confirmed that they had not received information from the agents who expelled them.
“Imagine what we went through from Honduras to get here: walking, hitchhiking, feeling hungry, suffering with our children,” he said.
“They took our photos, our fingerprints, they kept us for three days and then they sent us here without signing anything.”
Mendez said he thought things would be different under the Biden administration.
He has a brother in Charlotte, North Carolina, who was waiting to pick him up and Hector when Méndez called him to break the bad news.
“He chided me for making the trip,” Mendez said. “I told him I had no choice, I didn’t want us to starve.”
Now he was stranded in Juárez, thousands of miles from his home, with no money to return.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism