McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A faith-based nonprofit has opened a third shelter to help migrants, including those from Venezuela who are now being sent back to Matamoros, Mexico, as they try to claim asylum in the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security late last week announced that Venezuelans will be sent back to Mexico under Title 42 health regulations. That has resulted in thousands of Venezuelans massing along the northern Mexican border with the United States from Matamoros to Tijuana.
On Friday, the Gateway International Bridge from Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas, was closed for about four hours as Venezuelans peacefully protested the new removal orders.
Border Patrol RGV Sector Chief Gloria Chavez, who just recently assumed the post, went to the bridge and spoke with protesters, most of whom were quietly sitting on the ground, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Border Report, adding that the migrants were neither yelling nor throwing objects.
Chavez, who is the Department of Homeland Security’s lead field coordinator for this region, passed out information and helped explain the new DHS directive regarding Venezuelans, the spokesman said.
“Then they all walked back to the Mexican side of the bridge peacefully,” he said. “I wouldn’t even call it a protest, I’d call it more of a gathering.”
The Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, which assists migrants, tweeted that it was a “peaceful protest” and posted photos that showed Venezuelans holding signs reading “paz,” Spanish for “peace.”
Andrea Rudnik, the volunteer coordinator for Team Brownsville, a nonprofit that assists migrants south of the border, told Border Report that the protest didn’t last very long.
“It was a protest and it closed down traffic but it was brought under control pretty quickly,” she said. “The people from Casa del Migrante came over and talked to people and gave them their options. There was no violence or anything. It was just people who were concerned about what would happen to them.”
Casa del Migrante, which operates migrant shelters in Matamoros, helped Venezuelan migrants who opted to get on buses bound for Mexico City. Rudnik said the bus rides back south were voluntary.
“Casa del Migrante was really stepping up. They now have three shelters and they are accommodating people and some of the people chose to go to Mexico City and they made sure to let us know that they had made sure that it was a choice that they didn’t have to go to Mexico City,” she said Wednesday. “They could go and if they didn’t go then they could stay in Matamoros.”
Rudnik said so far her organization has not yet noticed a drop in Venezuelans who are being legally released in Brownsville by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from area detention facilities, but she says that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Team Brownsville helps to give migrants supplies and toiletries and meets them at the Brownsville bus station before they travel to other cities. It usually takes a few days from the time a migrant is apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol to when they are released by ICE on humanitarian parole.
On Wednesday, volunteers were loading up vehicles with winter coats and clothing and other gear to send to Reynosa, Mexico, south of McAllen, where Rudnik said over 5,000 mostly Haitian migrants are waiting on the border to claim asylum.
The supplies will be there ready for Venezuelans who also come, which were “already in the pipeline” from South America and might not be aware of the new rules preventing them from crossing into the United States, she said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com