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Migrant families exceed shelter capacity in Mexican border cities

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Shelters and churches that support migrants in the Mexican border city of Matamoros are at the limit of their capacity, a reflection of the incessant migratory wave that plagues this municipality in the northeast of the country, where there is also a maximum alert for coronavirus infections.

These centers are at a crossroads due to the arrival of hundreds of migrants in recent months seeking to cross to the United States, and suffer from a lack of needed supplies.

Migrant families exceed shelter capacity in Mexican border cities
Migrant families exceed shelter capacity in Mexican border cities. (Photo internet reproduction)

The city was known for the opprobrious migrant camp on the banks of the Bravo River, which housed up to 2,000 people and was a symbol of the harsh policies of former U.S. President Donald Trump (2017-2021).

This camp was dismantled a few months ago. Still, the migrant phenomenon remained, albeit with greater stealth, and spread again until it exploded again and revealed the vulnerability of both migrants and activists in favor of their rights.

According to the most recent figures from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 180,000 migrants were arrested along the border last May, the highest number in more than two decades.

While according to Mexican government figures, between January and April 2021, as many as 56,622 people have been brought before the immigration authority.


“They surpassed the level of people I can help. The crisis is huge, and no municipal, state, or federal authority has approached me,” Victor Barrientos, pastor of the Viento Recio Church, said on Wednesday.

The church, located in the south of the town of half a million inhabitants, had 300 people a month ago, well above its ideal capacity.

It serves about 80 people after channeling dozens of migrants, many of them families, to other shelters in the municipality, to guarantee their safety and provide them with better conditions. The religious leader urged the municipal government to open spaces, such as public swimming pools, to stay there.


The Central American and other migrants from different countries and Mexicans who were sheltered in the overcrowded church had to take to the streets on Monday with their belongings to look for a new place to stay.

They even spent the night in the street, and some of them spent the night on the roofs of the houses surrounding the site.

Residents of the sector took pity on the migrant children and initially organized to provide them with soup and beans. Eventually, the neighbors cooked for the 130 adults and 65 minors who remained in groups outside the religious compound.


“We call on the government and the organizations to get involved. We have to be aware of the situation in terms of pandemic, security, and hygiene”, expressed Venezuelan migrant Jhonatan Manuel Mané.

The pandemic in Matamoros has worsened in the last weeks, and even the authorities of the Health Secretariat of Tamaulipas have cataloged the municipality in red alert (maximum danger) since it is the city with the second-most active cases, registering 470.

In the northern border of Tamaulipas, Reynosa, and Matamoros, cities where most migrant families are concentrated, there is a risk due to the constant coronavirus infections reported daily by health authorities.

Jhonatan arrived almost a month ago in Matamoros with his wife and 5 children, all minors, and has already presented himself before the U.S. authorities and requested asylum.

But he will have to wait for them to contact him, according to what he was told. “The process has been a little slow, but each person and each nationality has a different process,” said the Caracas native.


The Mexican internally displaced persons have joined the groups of migrants seeking to enter the United States.

And just like the rest, they feel vulnerable being far from their regions, among strangers, and with a high degree of fear due to the crime that exists in Mexico.

“As a mother, the only thing that matters to me is to see that the children are away from threats and crime,” said Ericka Rodríguez Bravo, from the southern state of Guerrero, one of the poorest in the country.

Ten members of her family arrived in Matamoros in the last few days. They first slept on the streets and then under a roof of a house provided by a family to protect them from the sun and rain, especially since they include a newborn baby girl.

They fled Guerrero after the shooting death of their father and after their mother died of illness. When they wanted to sell their land, they only received threats that made them leave that region and head to northern Mexico.

“We came fleeing, knocking on doors. God wanted them to help us here, these children are in danger in the situations we are in,” he said.

According to reports, in Matamoros, 2,377 migrants who were part of the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico”, which during the Trump era forced these people to stay in Mexico while awaiting their appointments in U.S. courts, have passed to the United States.

But so far, it is unknown how many migrants have arrived at this point of the border in recent months intending to seek asylum.

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