EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Dozens of migrants flown to El Paso from South Texas under the impression they’d be released into the United States instead now find themselves in Juarez, Mexico. Some of them include families with small children.
U.S. federal officials confirmed to Border Report that several individuals “who were part of family units” were expelled to Mexico after arriving in El Paso under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Title 42 authority. Unaccompanied minors are not being expelled.
“We work closely with our government of Mexico counterparts as these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with Title 42 guidelines,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Border Report in a statement. “The border is not open, and the vast majority of migrants are being returned under Title 42 authority.”
Earlier this month, U.S. officials told an El Paso nonprofit they’d be flying up to 270 migrants per day from South Texas because they don’t have the capacity to process them over there. Operators of that nonprofit last week told KTSM they’re not receiving as many paroled migrants as they were told.
A CBP spokesman said migrants flown from South Texas are first routed to El Paso processing facilities, where a determination is made as to their status. Factors such as specific legal requirements, U.S. holding capacity and COVID-19 protocols, the health of the individual and Mexico’s policies influence custody determinations, CBP said.
The official did not immediately have available the number of migrants expelled to to Mexico from El Paso under Title 43.
But a source in Juarez said that in the last six days, CBP has sent over dozens of migrants who told them they crossed the border in places like Reynosa, Mexico (south of McAllen), were caught by the Border Patrol, put on an airplane to El Paso, interviewed by U.S. authorities, then bused to the Mexican border.
“Many are coming over confused. We try to tell them what the situation is, that the U.S. is not accepting asylum requests right now and that it’s not because of politics but for health reasons,” said Enrique Valenzuela, director of the Chihuahua State Population Council, which oversees Juarez’s Migrant Assistance Center.
“Once they calm down, once they have a chance to eat something and call their relatives, they are able to make a decision on whether they will wait (in Mexico) or return to their countries of origin.”
Valenzuela said the families sent over in recent days include citizens of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Mexican citizens detained in the El Paso Sector have been routinely returned to Juarez under the Title 42 rule since last year.
The newspaper El Diario on Friday interviewed several expelled Central Americans as they were trying to get their bearings in Juarez. “The smugglers tricked us,” a Honduran man named “Juan” told the newspaper, adding he thought he and his 2-year-old daughter would be taken to a shelter after landing in El Paso.
El Paso advocates who have been assisting migrant families flown from South Texas and released to non-profit shelters said they were surprised to learn about the expulsions.
Marissa Limon, associate director of El Paso’s Hope Border Institute, said she was attending meetings in Juarez when she came upon a family from Honduras expelled after crossing the U.S. border at South Texas.
“It was a father, a mother and two kiddos. […] they were disheveled, they definitely looked in rough shape, with little to no belongings,” Limon said. “Their story is they had crossed the Rio Grande, they were taken by Border Patrol to a shelter for four days then told they’d be flying to Houston. Instead, they were brought to El Paso and expelled. They were looking to find some food and a place to stay.”
Limon said she doesn’t know what criteria CBP is using to determine which families get paroled and released to nonprofits in El Paso while their relatives send bus or airfare, and which families are expelled.
“I realize there are a lot of moving parts right now on the border,” she said. “This definitely makes things very complicated for us and (the migrant families). It puts then in an incredibly risky situation.”
In Juarez, Valenzuela reminded migrants that Mexico and the United States continue to observe COVID-19 protocols that will prevent them from pursuing an asylum claim.
“This is not the time to come to the border. The United States is still applying Title 42, it is still turning people back at the border,” he said.