©Reuters. Migrants queue near the border fence after crossing the Rio Bravo River to report to U.S. Border Patrol agents and request asylum in El Paso, Texas, the United States, as reported by Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, March 21, 2020. Seen December 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzales 2/6
By Jose Luis Gonzalez and Daina Beth Solomon
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrants wrapped in coats and blankets formed a long line in cold winter air at the US-Mexico border on Wednesday, hoping to ease the holiday season of uncertainty over their hopes of asylum will put an end to The United States.
Many hoped entry would be easier after a December 21 deadline for the United States to lift COVID-era restrictions, but the US Supreme Court ruled this week to leave the directive, called Title 42, in place temporarily.
Several Venezuelans lamented the last-minute move as they watched migrants pour through the gates into the United States.
“We are waiting. Here they say one thing, and half an hour later they say something else,” Venezuelan Vanessa Revenga, 40, one of thousands of migrants who have gathered in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juárez in recent weeks, told El Paso, Texas.
Title 42 allows US authorities to return migrants of certain nationalities, including Venezuelans, to Mexico with no chance of asylum. The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to let it stand until after December 27.
Christmas made things even more difficult, said Venezuelan migrant Yessica Jerales, who was traveling with her two children.
“It’s December 24th and you don’t know where they’re going to sleep,” she said. “You see the lights and it’s Christmas and you have to explain that we want to give them a better future.”
Migrants in other border towns face a similar dilemma.
Six weeks since reaching Matamoros across from Brownsville, Texas, Venezuelan Giovanny Castellanos was preparing to spend Christmas in a tent away from his wife and five children.
Castellanos said Wednesday he saw 30 or 40 people crossing the Rio Bravo to confront US agents. Reuters images showed some migrants carrying small children and belongings on inflatable mattresses.
“Many are desperate, many do not want to spend Christmas here,” says Castellanos, 32.
Juan Antonio Sierra, who runs the city’s largest migrant shelter, says Matamoros now has up to 8,000 migrants, many of whom live in the border camps or on the streets.
With temperatures expected to drop further, he fears those desperate to reach the United States will risk their lives crossing the river.
“It’s dangerous because they can drown because the temperatures are fluctuating,” he said, “and it’s getting colder.”