EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Sitting on the Mexican bank of the Rio Grande for several hours, Andris Gustavo Parra finally got up and decided to walk back to the room he shares with four other people in Juarez, Mexico.
The Venezuelan migrant planned to cross into the United States on Thursday evening to claim asylum as Title 42 expulsions were set to expire. But the barbwire fence, the rifle-toting Texas State Guard troops and, above all, the chatter on private social media groups convinced him to try a different strategy.
“I ask my people, my migrant peers, to have patience,” Parra told Border Report. “For the moment, I will stay here in Mexico working, waiting for things to calm down because this will not last. I will not cross (today); I’m trying the app right now.”
He was referring to the CBP One phone app that the U.S. government is directing asylum-seekers to make an appointment through before showing up at a port of entry. As Title 42 expulsions expired, Title 8 migrant processing kicked in as did new rules that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas summarized in a few words: “Starting tonight (May 11), people who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway will be presumed ineligible for asylum.”
Andris said he will remain in Juarez until he gets an appointment in El Paso, Texas. He said people working for the Nicolas Maduro regime murdered his brother while Andris was on his way to the U.S. border. That is the kind of political violence he says is driving many families and individuals out of Venezuela.
“We are all in danger because of Maduro and his followers. By giving you this interview, I cannot set foot in Venezuela because I am a dead man,” he said.
Border agents in El Paso on Thursday took custody of 1,800 migrants – some trying to evade apprehension, most turning themselves in at the border wall seeking asylum. The number was down to 300 the next morning, according to a Friday briefing by El Paso city officials.
Across the border in Juarez, Mexican officials reported migrant shelters at 25% to 30% capacity and the number of tents on the sidewalks near City Hall and the National Migration Institute offices had gone down from 120 last week to around 50 on Friday.
“Our intent is to look for an appointment and wait to come in” legally, said Victor Arturo, a Venezuelan migrant milling about the camp at City Hall. “We will wait for our appointment because we came here to work, to provide for our families and our children that we left in Venezuela.”
Venezuelan migrants could be seen reading or typing on their phones constantly, waiting or sharing news with others about what they were seeing Friday at the U.S.-Mexico
They texted about the barbwire fence and the soldiers they saw on the U.S. side of the river; they read news about migrants who turned themselves in at other U.S. border cities reporting they were sent back to Mexico.
Johan Villanueva, a Venezuelan who arrived in Juarez riding on top of a train on Thursday, said he spent the night at a shelter. Based on the information he received from other migrants there, he decided not to cross into the U.S. today – the day after Title 42 expulsions expired.
He said he had been trying to schedule an asylum appointment all day on the CBP One app but had trouble accessing the page.
“I have been trying to get an appointment all day. But you go in and it’s a lie that it’s working. Some have had luck, but not many,” Villanueva told Border Report.
He said his trek from South America to the border not only has been an ordeal but has been filled with unexpected setbacks. “It’s frustrating. You lose hope. The jungle is hard and the criminals take all your money when you come out. You are cold, you are hungry and your family can only help you a little because they don’t have much.”
Villanueva said he will wait for a CBP One appointment before crossing the border. In the meantime, the industrial mechanic is willing to take on any odd job in Juarez, a city he only knows for its reputation of violence.
A handful of Central Americans at the camp are finding safety in numbers and also sharing information from social media. Carmen, from El Salvador, and Denise, from Guatemala, worked their cell phones on Friday trying to book an asylum appointment. Neither had any luck.