BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — Advocates say migrants are amassing in Matamoros, Mexico, and are living without shelter on the streets as they wait for Title 42 to be lifted.
“There are thousands of people sleeping on the streets,” Joshua Rubin, founder of the grassroots organization Witness at the Border, told Border Report recently.
Rubin and others crossed from Brownsville, Texas, into Matamoros on Friday and Saturday as part of the Journey for Justice caravan, which is meant to shed light on the plight of migrants along the border.
“They’re not allowed to set up tents or tarps either because the Mexican government just wants them gone. So they don’t care that it’s cold at night. They don’t care that kids are getting sick right now because winter is coming on and they are shivering. They don’t care. They just want people to leave,” said Rubin, who hails from New York City.
Rubin organized the 2,000-mile tour of the Southwest border, which departed the Rio Grande Valley on Saturday morning bound for San Diego. About 40 people have joined the caravan at each stop along the journey.
Fran Schindler, 83, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, crossed with Rubin into Matamoros on Saturday and also told Border Report that she saw “at least a thousand,” people on the streets of Matamoros needing assistance.
She said most are near where a previous encampment was formed in 2019, and at one point had upwards of 5,000 people. They had been turned back from claiming asylum in the United States under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program.
The camp was fenced in when the COVID-19 pandemic began and then became inaccessible to journalists or others to prevent the spread of the virus. The camp was eventually closed in 2021 after MPP was ended by the Biden administration and busloads of asylum-seekers began legally entering the United States.
Rubin and Schindler say the fence still stands, and the asylum-seekers are nearby living on sidewalks in the open air. Rubin says the migrants told him they had been there “for 20 to 30 days.”
“The old camp that was there is gone. It’s all fenced everywhere and these people are lying on the sidewalk. No toilets. No water. No safety. You know who goes down those streets after dark in Matamoros? The people in the camps were afraid of that. It’s too much. It’s got to stop,” Schindler told Border Report.
Schindler often visited the camp prior to the pandemic. But left the region after Title 42 was imposed and the borders were closed to asylum-seekers to prevent the spread of the virus.
Rubin says most of the migrants are hoping to cross into South Texas if Title 42 is lifted on Dec. 21. However, the U.S. government on Wednesday announced it is appealing a court ruling that would rescind the public health order.
Rubin says those living in the open air now include Venezuelans, Haitians, Peruvians and Mexican nationals from southern states like Chiapas.
“There are people coming here and they’re arriving and the Mexican policy, in conjunction with the American policy, is we dump them over there and Mexico makes it so hard on them in the hopes they will go home,” Rubin said. “Well, I asked them, ‘can you go home?’ and they said, ‘no we have no home to go to. There’s no place for us to go,'”
The nonprofit organization Sidewalk School for Children Asylum Seekers, which assists migrants south of the border, recently posted on its Facebook page photos showing children sleeping under blankets on top of cardboard on concrete. “Haitian and Venezuelan children asylum seekers sleeping on the streets of Matamoros. Please Donate and help buy food for the asylum seekers in Matamoros: SidewalkSchool.org,” the post read.
The organization on Nov. 29 posted on Twitter a 30-second video shot at night showing thousands of people on the side of a road in Matamoros.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com