JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Juarez has shut down a tent shelter by the Rio Grande because the flow of migrants passing through the city has declined, Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar says.
“Occasionally we get a large group of migrants that the government of the United States sends back (to Mexico) but (the flow) has gone down a lot,” the mayor said on Monday. “All of the other shelters in the city have plenty of space, so it didn’t make sense to keep (the tent facility) open.”
City crews on Sunday dismantled the tents two blocks east of Juarez City Hall. The 80 migrants who were staying there were offered rides to shelters operating out of permanent buildings. Only about half the migrants accepted the transfer, with the rest opting to fend for themselves on the streets.
Perez Cuellar said it’s not unusual for some migrants to not want to go to shelters in neighborhoods that are not near the U.S. border. But he said such refusal often creates challenges for the city.
“We have tried to keep them from sleeping at the Chamizal Park. They can be there in the day, but no one can stay there overnight,” he said.
Local news media reported some of the migrants were seen sleeping early Monday on the sidewalks of businesses on Avenida Lerdo, a tourist strip near the Mexican side of the Stanton Street Bridge.
The city put up the tents a few weeks after a fire killed 40 migrants at the National Migration Institute station across the street from Juarez City Hall. Dozens of migrants set up tents on sidewalks around City Hall and the torched INM building. City officials were worried the migrants or their children could be struck by passing cars, so they put up the tents a short distance away.
Perez Cuellar said the city spent very little public money on the tents but provided round-the-clock security and distributed food provided by the Mexican federal government.
One newly arrived migrant said she was surprised to find the tent shelter gone.
“We just arrived on (top of) the train, with the sun, the cold, exhausted and wanting to rest,” said Leidy Tineo, a Venezuelan migrant wandering Downtown Juarez on Monday.
Tineo said she heard only one migrant shelter remained open but that it was full. “It’s a constant danger because we are exposed on the streets – and with children. I wish they would help us and all of those that are coming after us because more are coming.”
City officials said some of the migrants who were staying at the tent facility already have online appointments for asylum interviews in the United States.
According to a Friday statement from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. government is seeing a daily average of 1,450 asylum seekers with CBP One appointments at ports of entry. This is up 45% from early May, when the average was 1,000 a day.
“CBP is expanding the number of available appointments at ports of entry for the second time in less than two months, through scheduling enhancements and operational efficiencies,” said Troy A. Miller, acting commissioner of CBP.
From May 12 through June 23, more than 49,000 asylum seekers have presented at Southwest border ports of entry through scheduled CBP One appointments, CBP said. “CBP One provides meaningful access to noncitizens seeking to present at a port of entry, consistent with the law,” the agency said in its statement.
Appointments can be made from Central Mexico, which means migrants do not have to go to Northern Mexico until they have a confirmed appointment, CBP said. This also cuts down on threats to their safety.
Juarez, at one point, hosted more than 30,000 migrants at a time, and one Chihuahua state official put that number at 60,000 prior to the end of Title 42 U.S. expulsions on May 11.
Perez Cuellar on Monday said he doesn’t know how many migrants remain in his city. “There are not as many as before but we can only tell you how many are at the shelters; we don’t know how many are on the streets. Nobody knows,” the mayor said.