Already vulnerable migrants in Juarez endangered by COVID-19 pandemic
Migrant Protection Protocols, colloquially known as Remain in Mexico, is a policy that effectively strips asylum seekers and migrants of their human rights. The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of danger and uncertainty to people who are waiting for their next hearing date. U.S. immigration courts have paused MPP hearings due to the current health crisis; however, adults and children still must present themselves at the port of entry to retrieve a notice with a new date for their hearing. Thus, asylum seekers and migrants are continuously forced to expose themselves and their families to the dangers of breaking quarantine. CLINIC, through Estamos Unidos, continues to stand by asylum seekers and migrants in Juarez and call attention to the injustices on the border.
The following stories paint the picture of what life is now like for those stranded in Juarez under MPP or those recently removed from the United States and arriving in Juarez, while doing their best to survive under this pandemic.
- Beatriz, an indigenous Guatemalan survivor of domestic violence, is also diabetic. This medical condition places her at greater risk of developing complications if exposed to COVID-19. Because of the health crisis, she has lost her job. Beatriz presented herself at the port of entry on March 23 at 4:30 a.m. for her hearing, even though she knew it might be postponed. CBP gave her a new date to appear a month later, again at 4:30 a.m. However, the CBP officers warned her that date might also be suspended, but that she had to present herself at the bridge, nonetheless. Her trust in her faith is profound and is what she leans in to for strength in these times of solitude and vulnerability.
- Maria is a Mexican deportee who CBP returned to Juarez in January with her three minor children and granddaughter. She sought help at the Juarez Cathedral, but found it closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. She was able to contact a humanitarian aid worker who provided shelter and food for the family. Maria’s hardships have been many since her removal to Mexico, and she worries about her ability to provide for her family. The closure of businesses and the need to care for her little ones amidst the pandemic has left her with very few options for employment, and even fewer safe ones.
- Matias, his partner and their almost two-year-old ever-smiling son, stay at an overcrowded shelter in Juarez. They had been living in a small room in the city of Chihuahua and intended to file their asylum applications while waiting for their hearing date. However, with the postponement of CBP court dates, the family has been unable to file their asylum applications. They also have lost their lease and jobs due to the pandemic. Their only alternative was to stay quarantined at a shelter in Ciudad Juarez, where Matias struggles to access medication for a longstanding health issue.
Prior to the pandemic, conditions at the border were already inhumane and detrimental to both asylum seekers and migrants. While aid has been limited — due to restrictions aimed at preventing the coronavirus from spreading — CLINIC, along with, faith leaders, organizations, advocates, lawyers and volunteers continue to find ways to support people at the border and call attention to the unjust conditions they endure. The strength and perseverance of migrants and asylum seekers during these challenging times is an inspiration to all.