JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The scar from a gunshot wound still visible on his forearm, Jose Mario Licona pins his hopes for a speedy admission into the United States on that country’s Supreme Court.
The high court this week could decide to let President Joe Biden end the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which has kept thousands of asylum-seekers like Licona in Mexico since 2019.
Biden began rolling back the Trump-era policy, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” Before a federal judge from Texas stopped him, Biden had disenrolled thousands from the program, allowing them to pursue asylum from the United States instead of Mexico. Some 7,200 migrants have been added to the MPP roles since then, advocates say. Most of them are from Nicaragua, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
“I ask (U.S.) authorities to not change laws to make things more difficult for us. We are here with our families because of the problems we experienced at home,” said Licona, a merchant who fled Honduras with his wife and three children after street gangs targeted him. “They tell me Juarez is violent, you fear being kidnapped. You don’t go out, you don’t know where else to go.”
Nancy Romero, who is also waiting in a Juarez shelter for her next U.S. court date, says migrants don’t need additional obstacles that may cause them to make rash decisions and put their lives in jeopardy.
“It’s been a three-year struggle, I’ve tried to do things the right way. I’ve never gone to the bridge, I’ve never tried to cross illegally,” the Cuban migrant said.
But she knows people who have. And on Tuesday, she learned about the 51 migrants who succumbed to heat and asphyxia in the back of a trailer box in San Antonio.
“I am moved by this,” Romero said. “I don’t think it’s fair that so many people die looking for freedom. […] Sometimes we do things that are not entirely correct but it’s because people are desperate and don’t think about what could happen to them.”
Romero, who is staying at the Respettrans shelter, favors the expansion of legal paths of entry into the United States so that migrants fleeing violence and persecution can safely and speedily present their cases in court.
She hopes the Supreme Court makes a decision that will facilitate such a process. Romero left Cuba in 2019 due to the lack of political freedoms, extortion by government inspectors and persecution because of sexual orientation.
The Rev. Juan Fierro, director of Good Samaritan shelter, said U.S. policies that lead to the massive return of migrants to Mexico add pressure to shelters already bursting at the seams.
“This situation is a serious one for the Mexican border. We see two waves: the people that come to the border plus those they send back to wait in Mexico,” he said.
Fierro said most migrants the U.S. is expelling to Juarez are single males and he worries about family breakup. But “If they do away from MPP, maybe all these people will be able to enter the United States.”