“The Dam is Going to Overflow”: In Mexico, Pressure Builds as U.S. Immigration Policies Take Hold

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Maybe one day in the coming months, the regulation scribbled on a hand-written sign at the immigrant shelter here will be better enforced.

But chances are better that the notice — which reads “only 60 migrants” in Spanish — could be yanked from the wall of the cluttered El Buen Pastor shelter and tossed away altogether.

“The capacity is 60, and that comes with a lot of problems. We don’t have beds,” said the Rev. Juan Fierro Garcia, the shelter’s director. “So we’re trying to use another place [across the street] so we can fit in more.”

Chaos is the new normal for Fierro and his wife, who for the last six months have been forced to use church pews as makeshift cots and find space in their dining room for thin mattresses where a growing influx of migrants can sleep. For the past two weeks, the number of migrants sleeping at the shelter has ranged from 80 to 110, he added, but he’s trying to add space to take as many as 250.

While the U.S. government builds tents to hold an increasing number of migrants crossing the border, Mexican shelter operators and immigration officials are warning that pressure is building on the south side of the border, too, as thousands of migrants are forced to wait in Mexico for a chance to make their case for asylum to an immigration agent or U.S. judge. In Ciudad Juárez, their numbers include not only Central Americans, but also refugees from Africa, South America, Europe and Asia.

The crush is due, in part, to President Donald Trump’simmigration policy,which has forced thousands of migrants waiting to present themselves for asylum in the United States to stay in Mexico until their numbers are finally called. The waiting list to have an initial interview with an asylum officer is now months long.


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