• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Venezuelan migrants set up camp in Juárez as US deportations surge

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Oct 26, 2022

JUÁREZ — Dozens of migrants set up camp within sight of southern El Paso overnight as the number of Venezuelans deported by the United States to the Mexican border town grew.

For days since the evictions began on October 12, Venezuelans have been sleeping in the elements near the Mexican side of the Paso Del Norte bridge. On Tuesday, authorities in the state of Chihuahua asked migrants to move away from a migrant assistance center and train tracks, and a large group pitched tents nearby on the south bank of the Rio Grande.

The agreement between the Biden administration and the government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador provided for 65,000 U.S. visas for Mexican, Central American and Haitian workers and 24,000 places for Venezuelan asylum seekers in exchange for acceptance by the Mexico to take deported Venezuelans to its northern border.

Venezuelan migrants have set up camp on the south bank of the Rio Grande in Juárez.  Many migrants have been deported under Title 42 after seeking asylum and hope to be accepted as refugees in the United States.  In this photo, a woman looks towards the United States as she tries to stay warm.

About 1,800 Venezuelan nationals have been deported to Juárez in the past two weeks, according to Enrique Valenzuela, director of the Chihuahua migrant assistance center in the city, the Centro de Atención Integral al Migrante. Many other Venezuelan migrants who were en route before the policy change arrive in Juárez daily.

Several migrants from the encampment said they had recently arrived in Juárez, had not yet crossed the US border, and were awaiting news of a change in policy.

“We are waiting for a response,” said Gilfred Jimenez, 21. “We’re all waiting for an opportunity to cross over. I have family, and they’ve crossed over and surrendered and been sent back to Mexico over the bridge.”

Mexico on Tuesday sent its Secretary for North American Affairs, Arturo Rocha, to El Paso and Juárez to review the “implementation of the new humanitarian plan for the Venezuelan people in Mexico,” according to a statement. Rocha met with UN personnel in Juárez and Border Patrol leaders in El Paso.

Juárez’s shelter network is overcrowded, aid workers say, and the city is struggling to house the number of people being returned.

The Mexican government, which used to issue single Venezuelan adults who had been deported by the United States with a document stating that they had to “abandon Mexican territory” within 15 days, now offers a 180-day visa. As temperatures plummeted, Juárez Mayor Cruz Pérez Cuellar opened an additional stripped-down shelter in a space that previously served as campaign headquarters. “We think things are under control,” he told the El Paso Times on Wednesday. Pérez Cuellar said the city is pressuring the federal government to provide labor clearance for migrants. “It’s a problem and we are talking to the federal authorities,” he said. “Because there is a lot of work in Juárez. We have more jobs than workers.

Venezuelan migrants have set up camp on the south bank of the Rio Grande in Juárez.  Many migrants have been deported under Title 42 after seeking asylum and hope to be accepted as refugees in the United States.  In this photo, a group of men have set up a large tent.

Jesús Alberto Gómez Meneses woke up in the camp on Wednesday morning. He said he crossed the US border at El Paso on October 20 but was quickly deported.

“They didn’t just send me away, but the whole group of Venezuelans,” he said. “Anyone who crosses at night, in the morning, they will be fired, all Venezuelans.”

Lauren Villagran can be reached at lvillagran@elpasotimes.com or on Twitter @laurenvillagran.