On the banks of the Rio Grande or on the southern border, migratory crises are a mirror of the relationship between Mexico and the United States. The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador is preparing to take on the latest emergency, a wave of Haitian migrants who have been held for almost a week in a camp under a bridge that connects Texas and the State of Coahuila. The Joe Biden Administration has already begun the deportation of the nearly 15,000 people who managed to cross and who will be returned to Ciudad Acuña, a Mexican municipality that is at risk of becoming another funnel as Tapachula already is, in Chiapas, a wall of containment for caravans arriving from Central America, and to other countries. But the chilling images of the captures of border agents are also joined by a diplomatic pulse for the future of these migrants.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard spoke by phone Monday night to address the crisis. The two will meet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where they plan to have an in-depth conversation. Mexico seeks greater involvement from its neighbor, also reflected in the letter that López Obrador has just sent to Biden requesting more economic support for social programs in Central America. This approach is not a novelty and – although Washington tends to subordinate its investments to the evaluation of a country’s performance in managing these funds – the need for a joint, regional response has become a priority for the Mexican government. .
The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that there was a “very notorious, notable recent flow of people of Haitian origin who come from Brazil and Chile, not from Haiti, and have refugee status in those countries. ”. “They are not requesting to be refugees in Mexico, except for a small percentage. What they are asking is that the passage to the United States be left practically free for them ”, he added. The migratory wave is due to the fact that Washington extended the deadlines for a temporary protection program known as TPS last August. The decision only affects Haitians who are already in the United States, but it caused a kind of effect called as it happened at the end of 2020 after Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.
“The conversation was about this particular issue and the need to have a regional response, not just about this flow that has crossed all the countries of Latin America. We are talking about Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico ”, has maintained Ebrard, who also requests the support of the United Nations to support Haiti. The Caribbean country has just suffered a devastating earthquake and is going through the umpteenth political crisis after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last July.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it is a bottomless pit: the recent history of Haiti. And one of his photographs is that of the migrant camp that crowd between the United States and Mexico, between Del Río and Ciudad Acuña. At noon this Tuesday music in Creole is played in a wasteland of Ciudad Acuña. Gregorio Jean-Pierre, a 30-year-old Haitian, translates: “Give me your hand, I’m going to do something for you.” A woman cries to Christian music and raises her arms, sitting with her baby on her knees. More children hang from the games where the clothes are also hung that some wash further away, on the bank of the Rio Grande. Almost 15,000 migrants became blocked under the international bridge that separates Mexico from the United States at that point. Now there are fewer: some have been deported by the Joe Biden Administration and others have chosen to return to Ciudad Acuña, where another camp seems to begin to form.
The man returns to Mexico every day to find food for himself, his wife, and their son; sometimes he also takes advantage of withdrawing the money sent to him by his relatives in the United States. Now he’s hurrying because it’s about to rain. Several agree that the conditions under the bridge, to which the press has restricted access, are “very bad.” “The Americans only give us water, bread, water, bread,” he says. “What are you going to do with water and bread?” The weekend also saw images of Border Patrol agents on horseback using animals to push migrants into Mexico, events that the authorities promised to investigate.
After days in these conditions and for fear of being deported, some have preferred to settle on the Mexican side. Perhaps to try to cross through another point or to start your immigration procedures in the country. Etrovis Doliskar, 32, has already left the camp under the bridge for good, he says. After seven years in Brazil, where he says he lived on $ 190 a month, this Haitian began the journey from South America through 11 countries. After months of travel, many have returned to their starting point these days, after the Democratic government began deporting thousands of people. Friends of his who were returned to Haiti, warned him this Monday: “Do not come near if they tell you that they are going to take you to the United States, it is a lie.”
Doliskar does not even consider the possibility of being deported. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010 that forced thousands of people to begin an exodus, mainly to countries in South America. In 2017, Mexico stopped being just a country of passage to the United States and became a destination for Haitians. “In Haiti we do not have a president, we do not have work and there are many bandits,” explains the man.
“With the covid, the situation is difficult again,” says Christoph Jankhöfer, project coordinator at Doctors without borders, one of the non-governmental organizations that came to the camp. The Red Cross and UNICEF are also there, and this Tuesday they distribute food, clothes or toilet paper, Christian organizations and political activists. The doctor estimates that there are about 500 people already installed, but criticizes that “there is nothing organized” by the authorities. “There is no shelter or shelter for people who are sleeping outside, in contact with many insects. There is also a lack of water and toilets, and medical systems ”.
Jankhöfer explains that the migrants arrive with respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, with skin lesions or infections, or in need of psychological care. “Many of the people experienced difficult situations in their countries of origin, but also on the road: violence, sexual assaults, assaults, extortion … They left without knowing where they are going to sleep the next night, the next month or the next year, and without knowing if they were going to be received by the United States or Mexico ”. That “lack of foresight” can be very “depressing” for those who experience it. The doctor also criticizes the “lack of guidance within the system” in Mexico: “Here there is no Comar [la oficina encargada de gestionar las solicitudes de refugio] and many are asking us ”.
Calix Pierre, 29, arrived by bus to Ciudad Acuña with his wife and their one-year-old and eight-month-old daughter, who sleeps, tiny, covered by a towel on the floor. This step has been the second most used by migrants after the Rio Grande Valley in the last year. In Del Rio, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded 533% more encounters with migrants than during the previous period. This Tuesday, Pierre and his family came to the camp. His plan, now, is to try to process his papers there, but like many, he is disoriented. “I come to work because I have a family,” he says. “If they give me the papers here, I’m going to stay here.” “Over there,” he says and points to the border bridge, which you can’t see from there, “I have friends who are suffering a lot.”
Under the enormous concrete infrastructure, Jean-Pierre is already there, sending images of the camp via WhatsApp: plastic or improvised tents with branches and straw, hot water cans, and more children on the ground. He crossed the Rio Grande several hours ago with refreshments and food for his family. At two in the afternoon, the water reached up to his torso, but from four o’clock the water level rises to the necks of the highest. Some of those who walk through it strip off their clothes and protect as much as possible in layers and layers of bags before heading down the muddy slope to the shore. Jean-Pierre wants to take his family from that side: “I want to get out of here, I don’t know how.”
Subscribe here to newsletter of EL PAÍS México and receive all the informative keys of the current situation of this country