JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Enrique Valenzuela steps into the waiting room of Juarez’s Migrant Assistance Center and poses a question to two dozen people sitting there.

“How many of you rode to Juarez on top of a train?  Almost everyone in the room, including children, raise their hands.

“Despite the United States keeping Title 42 (expulsions) in place, migrants particularly from Venezuela continue to arrive here from the interior of Mexico. We also have received people who were expelled from the U.S. […] and the numbers have been extraordinary,” said Valenzuela, director of the Chihuahua Population Council that runs the center on the Mexican side of the Paso del Norte International Bridge.

The U.S. on October 12 stopped taking in-person asylum applications from Venezuelan nationals crossing the border between ports of entry. It directed them to apply online using the CBP One app after procuring a sponsor in the United States who will assume financial responsibility for them. Those crossing the Rio Grande, the border wall or the Southwestern desert without authorization have subject to immediate expulsion since then.

But a lack of information about the new requirements, combined with the hope President Biden “will change his mind” are still drawing thousands of Venezuelans to the Mexican border.

Luis Enrique, a Venezuelan carpentry apprentice said his father and mother crossed the Rio Grande early in 2022 and were quickly granted humanitarian parole. The family left Venezuela years ago due to lack of jobs and the cost of living. They set off for the United States from Colombia about a year after President Biden took office.

Luis Enrique, a Venezuelan migrant

“I am the only one still here (in Mexico), waiting to see how I will get across,” he said.

Luis Enrique on Friday visited the Migrant Assistance Center but was told Juarez shelters are nearing capacity and only accepting families with small children. He was given a brochure explaining how Venezuelans can apply for asylum remotely using the CBP One mobile app. He was struggling to understand how the process works and said he lost his identity documents while crossing into the United States, anyway.

Venancio, another Venezuelan migrant, sat on a bench outside the center on Friday, also struggling to file an online asylum application. “What if my sponsor is already sponsoring someone else? Can he still sponsor me? he asked someone sitting next to him.

Joel Martin Dumas, a Nicaraguan national, said he and his family set off from Central America in December when the U.S. was still accepting in-person applications from Nicaraguans, Cubans and Haitians. That changed on January 6, as those nationalities were also placed on the remote asylum application program.

A pamphlet with information in Spanish on the CBP One app. (Border Report)

“They already sent me back, but what can I do but go on?” said Luis Enrique, a 21-year-old Venezuelan who crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso, Texas earlier this week under the impression he would be able to join his parents in New York City once he told the Border Patrol that he wanted asylum.

“It has been a hard journey,” Dumas said. “They had me at Siglo 21 (a Mexican migrant detention facility) for two weeks. {…} We had no choice but to leave Nicaragua. There is no jobs and there’s hunger. We were hoping to be in Miami this month, but instead we found this.”

Dumas said he and other family members were having a hard time figuring how to use the CBP One app and hoped Valenzuela’s staff would be able to help them.

Valenzuela said his office is trying its best to assist migrants newly arrived to Juarez by passing on official information about asylum that U.S. officials have forwarded Mexican authorities. He is also trying to hook up migrant families and vulnerable migrants with church-run shelters in Juarez that are not full.

He said the Migrant Assistance Center has been seeing between 200 and 400 migrants per day – a higher number than in the days prior to the end of Title 42 expulsions in late December, which were postponed possibly until June by the U.S. Supreme Court. The difference, he says, is the migrants are facing the harsh reality of a restricted U.S. border and are scrambling to find ways to survive in Juarez. Also, many Venezuelans who were waiting for the end of Title 42 in December haven’t left, and those expelled from the U.S. since then aren’t going anywhere, either.

“We tell them about the possibility of applying for refuge here in Mexico and take advantage of employment opportunities locally. We provide them information about what the official mechanisms for applying for asylum are,” he said. “We know that thousands have arrived, and thousands remain here. […] Above all, we are strongly advising people not to put themselves or their families at risk by approaching smugglers. We, too, want an orderly and safe migration for them and their families.”