EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The largest nonprofit migrant shelter in Juarez, Mexico, has stopped taking in guests due to overcrowding and COVID-19 concerns.
Casa del Migrante on Wednesday had nearly 400 migrants, most of them Mexicans displaced by violence, in addition to asylum-seekers from Central and South America.
The Catholic church-run shelter is also low on supplies, so it’s asking people in El Paso and Juarez for donations of clothing, diapers, baby formula and personal care items such as soap, toothpaste and razors.
“We’re at capacity and welcome any assistance right now, especially for families with small children. Diapers and underwear is what is needed most,” said Ivonne Lopez, the lead social worker at the shelter.
You can contact the shelter at (011-52-656) 687-0676 to arrange for the pick up of donated items or drop them off at any Catholic church in Juarez and specify the items are intended for Casa del Migrante.
Lopez said Casa del Migrante will reopen its doors to newly arrived migrants once some of the current guests leave. Length of stay varies from a couple of days to several months. Many of the asylum seekers appearing last week at federal immigration court in El Paso under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program listed Casa del Migrante as their address.
Shelter officials want to prevent overcrowding to stem a possible COVID-19 outbreak as well. Staff encourages social distancing, frequent hand-washing and the use of sanitizing gel, and conducts temperature checks.
Many of Juarez’s 20 or so migrant shelters are near capacity due to the increased arrival to Juarez in the past six months of Mexicans and foreign citizens who’re either trying to cross into the United States or come looking for work, said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Population Council.
“We know of 3,000 migrants, give or take, who are staying at the shelters. But only 30 percent stay at shelters, so Juarez must have a migrant population of 9,000 to 10,000 people right now,” Valenzuela said.
He has noticed the recent arrival of hundreds of Haitian adults and families, as well as the constant trickle of residents of southern Mexico states.
“The Haitians come with (Mexican) humanitarian visas, so they’re mostly looking for work. They usually don’t ask us for shelter because they already have a place to stay,” Valenzuela said.
Juarez officials have grown used to dealing with international citizens since the Central American surge and caravans of late 2018.
The state of Chihuahua runs a Migrant Assistance Center next to the Paso del Norte International Bridge, the federal government has set up a fenced-off shelter in Central Juarez and a United Nations agency oversees a “filter hotel” to screen and care for some new arrivals.
However, government officials want the migrants to know what they’re getting into before venturing to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The U.S. border remains closed except for U.S. citizens and those who have the proper documents. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) is not taking asylum seekers at the ports of entry and there are no waiting lists,” Valenzuela said.
In addition, advocates in Mexico and the United States warn that migrants are often targeted for robbery, kidnapping and other crimes by local gangs and transnational criminal organizations.