In Matamoros, Mexico, a makeshift camp of about 2,000 migrants has formed gradually on the shores of the Rio Grande at the Gateway bridge. Tarps and trash bags form tents that do little to protect migrant families as they wait for decisions on their asylum claims. Many migrants have been living here for months as part of the “return to Mexico” program implemented by the U.S. government. Under this program, authorities return immigrants who appear at the border to apply for asylum to Mexico, pending their asylum claims or to await a time to file their applications. Migrants have reported that U.S. immigration officials have assured them of shelter in Mexico while they await asylum. However, most migrants in this situation have found no refuge.
Mexican immigration officials provide plates of food a few times each day, but they typically run out after feeding 40 or 50 people. Other migrants primarily rely on groups of religious organizations, immigration activists, and other donors who provide food, water, blankets, and other necessary supplies. There is no running water; two wooden shower stalls and fewer than ten portable toilets have led to steadily deteriorating conditions due to the steadily growing migrant camp. Migrants use the river for bathing, fishing, and drinking, and use a nearby wooded area as their bathroom.
Nonetheless, many migrants have reported that the outdoor camp is preferable to detention in the U.S., where they were separated from their children and continuously berated by immigration officials. The cells in which they were housed often became covered in human waste with no access to cleaning supplies or clean clothing.
The city of Matamoros initially planned to relocate the migrants to a stadium that is almost a two-hour walk from the Gateway bridge. However, migrants feared that they would miss their asylum hearings if relocated, and the city later scrapped plans for relocation, stating that they could not forcibly move the migrants due to their presence on federal land.
The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.