EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Several hundred people marched through the streets of El Paso Saturday afternoon, and when they came to a group of immigrants Huddled outside a church, they sang to them “No Esten Solos” – “You are not alone”.
About 300 migrants have taken shelter on the sidewalks outside Sacred Heart Church, some of them afraid to seek more formal accommodations, advocates say, amid new restrictions to prevent illegal border crossings.
This is the scene that will greet President Joe Biden when he makes a politically charged visit to the southern border on Sunday.
The president announced last week that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans who enter the U.S. illegally will be deported to Mexico — an expansion of the pandemic-era immigration policy known as Title 42. New rules That includes granting humanitarian parole to 30,000 people a month from those four countries
Biden will arrive in El Paso on Sunday afternoon before heading to Mexico City to meet with North American leaders. on Monday and Tuesday.
Dylan Corbett, who runs the Hope Border Institute, said the city was experiencing a growing “climate of fear”.
Immigration enforcement agencies have already begun deporting people to Mexico, and he senses growing tension and confusion.
The president’s new policy expands on an ongoing effort to prevent Venezuelan nationals from trying to enter the United States that began in October.
Corbett said many Venezuelans have been left in limbo, putting a strain on local resources. Extending those policies to other migrants would worsen their situation on the ground, he said.
“It’s a very difficult situation because they can’t go forward and they can’t go back,” he said. Because of US law enforcement checkpoints, those not processed cannot leave El Paso; Most had traveled thousands of miles from their homelands and refused to return.
“People who need protection will be left behind,” Corbett said.
The new restrictions represent a major shift in immigration rules that will allow US officials to deport asylum seekers even as the US Supreme Court strikes down the Trump-era public health law.
El Paso ranked first in October and November in nine sectors of the Border Patrol along the U.S. border with Mexico. Large numbers of Venezuelans began arriving in September, attracted by the ease of crossing, strong accommodation networks and bus service on both sides of the border and a major airport to destinations across the Americas.
Venezuelans stopped a major presence almost overnight after Mexico agreed on Oct. 12 to accept people crossing the border illegally into the United States under Title 42 authority. Nicaraguans have filled that void. Title 42 restrictions have been used 2.5 million times to deny immigrants the right to seek asylum under US and international law on the grounds of preventing the spread of Covid-19.
U.S. authorities detained 53,247 migrants in November in the El Paso Sector, a 264-mile stretch of desert in western Texas and New Mexico, but the city of El Paso and the New Mexico suburb of Sunland Park have seen the most activity. The most recent monthly figure for the sector was three times higher than the same period in 2021, with Nicaraguans by far the top resident, followed by Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Guatemalans and Cubans.
Many gathered under blankets outside the Sacred Heart Church. The church opens its doors at night to families and women, so all the hundreds crammed into this joint don’t have to sleep outside in the plunging temperatures. Two buses were available for people to warm up and charge their phones. Volunteers come with food and other supplies.
Juan Dover held a Bible in his hands and his 7-year-old daughter carried it on her shoulders. The 32-year-old was a bus driver in Venezuela before he fled with his wife and two daughters because of political and financial chaos in their home country.
Friends in San Antonio are willing to pick them up, he said. She’s here to work and educate her daughters, but she’s stuck in El Paso without permission.
“Everything is in God’s hands,” he said. “We’re all human and we want to stay.”
Another Venezuelan, 22-year-old Jeremy Mejia, heard a message he wanted to send to the president.
“President Biden, I’m asking God to touch your heart so we can be in this country,” Mejia said. “Please touch your heart and ask us to help immigrants have a better future in America”
Leighton reported from El Paso and Spaghett reported from Yuma, Arizona. AP writer Claire Galofaro contributed to this report from Louisville, Kentucky.