Days after border closed for most migrants, manageable crowds but more anxiety

On a hot, humid morning in the Mexican border town of Reynosa, less than a mile from the Rio Grande, one question seemed to linger on the minds of hundreds of people who arrived at a migrant shelter Saturday.

When will they be able to enter the United States?

The answer remained elusive. At least 1,100 men, women and children, mostly from Central America and Venezuela, had arrived at Senda de Vida, a sprawling respite center of makeshift tents and temporary wooden rooms, in the hope to reach the United States. Instead, many felt stuck in limbo after President Biden signed an executive order barring migrants from seeking asylum along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border when crossing the border.

The order effectively closed the U.S. border to almost all asylum seekers at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

The full effect of the new rule was difficult to gauge three days after Mr. Biden, but on Saturday the number of migrants massing at the border showed signs of stabilizing, at least for now, compared to previous years. as many migrants appeared to heed the warning that they would be turned back, Héctor said. Silva de Luna, a pastor who runs the shelter.

At the height of the migration crisis, it hosted more than 7,000 people, he said. Many now appear to be waiting inside Mexico, in cities like Monterrey and Mexico City, to see what happens. But migrants at the border like those in Mr. de Luna’s shelters are “the ones who will pay the price,” he said, because they are rejected.

For them, the border closure has created even more anxiety. Reison Daniel Peñuela, 29, from Venezuela, felt responsible knowing that his wife and seven children were counting on him to reach the United States. Saturday morning, he looked down as the children chased each other and the women prepared meals on a crude stove. Before the new order took effect, three of his friends were able to cross the border and are now in Denver.

“I feel like I’m stuck here,” said M. » Peñuela said. “Now I don’t know when I will be able to enter the United States. I can’t go back empty-handed now.”

For years, many migrants would go to a port of entry or seek out a Border Patrol agent after crossing the Rio Grande, then seek asylum. The migrants would then be processed and released in the United States while awaiting a court hearing, a process that could take years.

The number of migrants arriving at the border has reached historic highs in recent years, up to 10,000 in a single day last December. More recently, those numbers hovered around 3,000. By taking a cue from Donald Trump’s strict immigration policy playbook, Mr. Biden appears to be trying to address a major concern of voters in both parties and, increasingly, Latinos at the border, a once-trusted constituency, who worry about unauthorized crossings.

The decree does not address the issue of migrants who evade border authorities and do not seek asylum.

Not everyone at the Reynosa, Mexico, shelter, located next to McAllen, felt helpless. Nuvia Baires, 34, from El Salvador, jumped for joy Saturday when, after seven months of trying, she learned she had been granted an asylum interview through CBP One, a mobile app that migrants must use before to enter the United States to obtain an appointment. To federal authorities to file an asylum application. Mr. Biden’s executive order does not apply to those who cross the border legally using the app.

“God answered my prayers,” Ms. Baires said to another migrant, Nicole Lopez, 20, from Honduras. “I was afraid I would stay here forever with this new rule.”

Others around her congratulated her but lamented that they had few options.

“This new rule is bad news, bad news for people like us who left everything to reach the border,” said Cintia Patricia Media, 40, who left Honduras with her husband and four daughters. They cleaned a modest wooden room on a sweltering day to make the most of their time here. “It’s painful to be so close and be told you’re not allowed in.”

The slowdown was also evident in McAllen, Texas, at a two-story respite center for newcomers run by Catholic Charities. As of Friday afternoon, Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, counted about 133 people, many with young children, a number well below the daily average of 600 to 800 people at most strong from the crisis. surges.

Sister Pimentel said she expects the number of people seeking help to remain low as long as the new order remains in effect. Anti-immigration activists have vowed to challenge the measure in court, a process that could take months.

“We don’t help them because they are immigrants. We help them because they are part of our community and they need help,” Sister Pimentel said.

Luzveisi Mora, 27, who left Venezuela 22 days ago, said she considered herself lucky to have arrived a day before the border closed. MS. Mora remembers swimming in the dangerous Rio Grande with her two young children Tuesday morning and suffering a severe cut to her abdomen from barbed wire.

She was forced to leave her native country, she said, where she worked odd jobs, earning the equivalent of about $5 a day, barely enough to buy a bag of flour. The little family was heading to New York, where the father of their children was waiting for them.

“If I had arrived just a day later, they would have sent me back,” she said. “If they had told me to turn back, I wouldn’t be able to come back. I would find a way to the United States by any means possible. Going back is not an option.

Migrants arriving in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez, which borders El Paso, Texas, also felt nervous about the new situation. Jorge Gomez, a solitary 34-year-old Honduran who arrived a day after the border closed to people like him, sat hunched and tired near a patch of riverside vegetation. He narrowed his eyes and wiped the dust from his arms.

“What I can say is that only God decides who can cross,” said M. Gomez said. “I’m alone, so I’m afraid they’ll deport me.”

Pastor Juan Fierro García, director of the Good Samaritan shelter in Ciudad Juárez, said he has seen more migrants try their luck at getting an appointment with CBP One rather than risk deportation. Pastor García said he had noticed a slight increase in the number of new arrivals in recent days, with around 180 migrants at his shelter on Saturday.

“About 26 more people are on their way to us,” he added. “And more will come.”

Karen Piamo, a 27-year-old Venezuelan who arrived at a shelter in Ciudad Juárez with her husband and three children, also felt helpless.

“We were already at the river when I saw the news,” Ms. Piamo said. “I want to cry.”

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