EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mauricio Mata braved near-freezing temperatures and ventured to the border wall on the other side of the Rio Grande on Wednesday night under the impression U.S. authorities would be busing him and other Venezuelan asylum-seekers to the Canadian border.
But after several hours of standing in a crowd of more than 500 people, Mata realized it was all a lie.
“We were certain it was true and that we would be given priority to go to Canada. But immigration (officers) told us that if we surrendered to them, they would send us back,” Mata said Thursday in a park within walking distance of the river in Juarez, Mexico. “I turned back because I don’t want to start over after all I suffered in coming here.”
The U.S. Border Patrol reported the mass surrender of 500 people at the border wall in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday night. Perhaps 200 more trickled across on Thursday morning with specific instructions to approach border agents at access Gate 36 and Gate 40. Most of the migrants were single adult males and females, but there were several families as well.
“At around 8 p.m., agents assigned to the Ysleta station started receiving a constant flow of migrants. In a period of a couple of hours, it was a flow of 500 migrants,” said Orlando Marrero-Rubio, a spokesman for the Border Patrol. “They were instructed that the federal government changed its policies on immigration and that’s completely false. […] Somebody on the Mexican side is informing them that we are going to put them in buses to Canada. That’s false.”
Federal officials suspect the rumor of free bus trips to Canada is being spread by the same transnational criminal organizations that lured the migrants to the border in the first place.
With a crowd of some 60 to 80 people on the other side of the wall, Marrero-Rubio said all those crossing the border illegally would be processed under Title 8 authority or expelled under Title 42, which someone in Mexico told the migrants also had been done away with.
The Biden administration has set up a remote asylum application program for Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans with U.S. sponsors. However, if they come across the border without being summoned to an appointment at a port of entry, they will likely lose eligibility for asylum.
Border Report spoke to a Venezuelan woman in the crowd who said someone she met in Juarez called her cell phone on Wednesday afternoon to tell her she managed to cross the border, was released by border agents and was on her way to Canada.
The woman, who identified herself as Paola, said that testimony prompted her to approach the border wall. “I have been (in Juarez) for four months. We are here since last night in the cold, without food,” she said. “We are not here to do harm; we just want to work. If the United States does not want to admit us, Canada will.”
Paola said she previously used the CBP One app to apply for asylum in the U.S., received notice of appointment but when she showed up at the Paso del Norte Bridge at the designated time, she was told she was not on the list.
“We are human beings. They must open their hearts to us because we are here with our children,” she said.
William Pina, another Venezuelan, also rushed to the border after hearing the rumors of Title 42 being done away with and the supposed free bus trips to Canada. On Thursday morning, he was waiting to be processed by the Border Patrol near the wall’s Gate 40.
“I’m here since last night. Good thing I brought a blanket for my children, but we’ve suffered cold and hunger,” he said as his son Schneider and daughter Maria Isabel played on the levee of the almost dry Rio Grande. “In Venezuela, you have no rights, there is no future for our children. Even a doctor cannot live on his wages. I could place my children in school there, but what for? They will not a future there.”
Pina said he traveled to the U.S. border from Venezuela after a friend told him he asked for asylum and was released into the United States last summer. Pina hopes to join his friend and work in Spring, Texas.
The father of four said he tried to apply for asylum remotely, but the CBP One app keeps freezing on his phone.
Back at the park in Juarez, a young Venezuelan named Ender said he doesn’t know who started the rumors that prompted hundreds to approach the border wall. But he said he will not give up on the American dream.
“What we lived last night was an adventure,” he said, laughing. “It was disappointing. […] When I came back, I had lost my place at the shelter.”