Posted on February 20, 2019

Trump Prevails as Mexican Officials Stop Caravan at Texas Border and Ship Migrants to Other Cities

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2019

Last week, a caravan of 1,800 Central American migrants arrived in this isolated Mexican border city, where police ushered them into a makeshift government shelter at a shuttered factory surrounded by chain-link fence.

As conditions at the shelter deteriorated, riots erupted last Wednesday. Migrants broke through security barriers and struggled with guards. Some threw pipes, tables, chairs and parts of a tent at Mexican officers. Migrant advocates and reporters were barred from the facility, which was surrounded by dozens of federal police in riot gear.

On the other side of the Rio Grande, in the sleepy town of Eagle Pass, Texas, 250 troops and scores of Border Patrol agents were sent to shore up defenses as President Trump vowed to stop this latest caravan.

As of Tuesday, the shelter was closing, with all but one group of migrant family members sent to other, larger border cities, where prospects of entering the United States were little better.

The last 18 migrants would be allowed to seek asylum at the border bridge to Texas, officials said. {snip}

U.S. officials have said they generally process 15 asylum seekers a day at Eagle Pass, but increased that to about 20 after the caravan arrived.

Local officials in Piedras Negras paid to bus most of the caravan travelers to larger Mexican cities, {snip}


When officials started allowing migrants to leave the shelter for short periods this week, Linares said she saw some asylum seekers attempt to cross the border bridges.


The migrants will probably join swelling waiting lists of asylum seekers as the U.S. expands a new policy forcing them to remain in Mexico after applying for asylum. Already, other asylum seekers have been turned back in Tijuana, and Trump administration officials said they planned to expand the policy to Piedras Negras.

Piedras Negras (population 150,000) and its sister city, Eagle Pass (population 28,000), fit a familiar pattern on the border: The Mexican city dwarfs its U.S. counterpart. {snip} Neither city has the immigrant advocacy groups found in other border communities such as Brownsville, El Paso or San Diego.

In those cities, U.S. lawyers have volunteered to accompany migrants seeking asylum at border bridges, assisting them if authorities attempt to bar them from entering. But migrants at the Piedras Negras shelter said no lawyers were allowed into the shelter to help them seek asylum.

Outside the shelter, uniformed Mexican immigration officials sat at tables with laptops issuing temporary identification cards and visas that allowed the Central Americans to travel within the country, some for just a few weeks.

“If they try to cross illegally, the card is void,” said Manuel Gamez Reyes, a spokesman for the city stationed at the shelter.

About 300 of the migrants were granted permission to stay and work in Mexico, he said. The rest had to relocate. {snip}


It would cost the city $260,000 to operate the shelter for a month, including food, staff and utilities, he said. He’s been working 12-hour days.