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Friday, January 27, 2023

Venezuelans Trapped in Mexico Still Hope Biden Will Change Border Policy: ‘I Want to Believe’

Rosa María Trejo arrived in the Mexican capital thanks to a brother living in Arizona, who sent money from his native Venezuela to help finance the difficult journey. Now he gives her money to eat and stay in a small hotel while she thinks what to do.

He has not given up on his plan to reach the United States.

“I don’t want to live in Mexico, but I also don’t want to go back to Venezuela,” says Trejo, 27. “My brother tells me that it is better to wait here until the situation changes in the United States.”

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans stranded in Mexico are thinking the same way as hopes spread that the United States will soon start letting them in again – two months after federal agents turned them over at the border without an opportunity to apply for political asylum. started removing.

The authority to keep them out comes from Title 42, a decades-old public health law that was revived by the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Biden administration fought the law in court but used it anyway, first for Mexicans and Central Americans, but then for Venezuelans after record numbers arrived at the border, mounting political pressure to crack down on Mexicans and Mexicans. Got ready to let them go again.

As a result, Venezuelans are ubiquitous in shelters, soup kitchens and homeless camps, from the sweltering jungles of Panama to the traffic-clogged streets of this capital and the desert towns of the Rio Grande. some ask for coins and food; Others depend on charity, odd jobs and help from relatives.

Last month, however, a federal judge ruled that the application of Title 42 to restrict immigration was “arbitrary and arbitrary,” giving the Biden administration until December 21 to end the practice.

It remains to be seen what the next border strategy of the White House will be. Many Venezuelans stranded in Mexico have decided to wait.

“Many people say the Americans are going to give us another chance, but we don’t know anything clearly,” said 36-year-old Carlos Fernandez. “I want to believe, want to believe that we will be able to cross over to the United States.”

The Mexico City shelter where he is staying is designed for 90 people but houses 500, mostly fellow Venezuelans. A mechanic by profession, Fernandez said he hoped to find work in the United States to help support his wife and two young children, who live in the northeastern state of Sucre.

“Biden surprised us,” Fernandez said, referring to the mid-October expansion of Title 42 to focus on Venezuela. “We’re basically left in limbo.”

Plunged into economic, political and social upheaval, Venezuela has seen nearly 7 million people – nearly a quarter of the population – flee since 2014. Most have settled in neighboring Colombia and other South American countries.

The exodus slowed as the economic situation in Venezuela improved slightly and some migrants returned. But the United States, initially not a major destination, has become a magnet over the past year and word has spread among Venezuelans that asylum seekers arriving at the border are being allowed into the country.

“We heard it was like a green light; Biden was letting the whole world in,” said Jose Díaz, 32, who, along with his wife, was among dozens of migrants seeking help outside the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City. “But everything changed after we moved here.”

The number of Title 42 applications arriving at the southwest border skyrocketed to send Venezuelans back to Mexico. In fiscal year 2022, US officials reported detaining nearly 190,000 Venezuelans at the border, triple the previous year’s total.

In September, before the Biden administration invoked Title 42, US border guards caught a record 33,000 Venezuelans. Most were allowed to enter the United States in order to apply for asylum.

Many Venezuelan expatriates sell homes or take out large loans, which can cost more than $5,000, to finance their trips. Most travel over land from South America through the Darien Gap, a strip of dense forest connecting Colombia and Panama, before making their way through Central America to Mexico.

Many tell stories of being robbed in Mexico or being held in overcrowded prisons where the food was barely edible.

In October, Mexico reported the detention of 52,262 migrants, a record for a single month. Venezuelans represented the largest group, approximately 42% of all detainees. Most were released and ordered to leave the country, a move many ignored due to lack of funds and a desire to return home.

Instead, many have taken refuge in Mexico.

Nearly 13,000 Venezuelans requested political asylum in Mexico in the first 11 months of this year, a 39% increase from the previous two years’ totals.

Many refugees acknowledge that their goal is to maintain proximity to the United States and to keep alive aspirations of moving there.

“Maybe we’ll have to wait a while in Mexico until the United States lets us in,” said 45-year-old Venezuelan Cristian Ontuno, one of the people queuing outside the central refugee office in Mexico City.

Some weary and bankrupt Venezuelans have given up on the American dream and are trying to return home. Several hundred people have secured free seats on flights from Mexico City to Caracas sponsored by the Venezuelan and Mexican governments.

“I would rather go back to the jungle than travel through Mexico again,” said 29-year-old Rosa Bustamante, looking for a seat on a flight outside the Venezuelan embassy in Mexico City on a recent morning. “In Mexico they put you in jail. They give you bad food. they rob you. They threaten you. They extort money from you.”

It took him two months to travel more than 5,000 kilometers from his home in Tachira, a Venezuelan state bordering Colombia, to Mexicali, where he and several compatriots entered California and turned themselves in to the Border Patrol.

They all went back to Mexico, said Bustamante, a former firefighter and pharmacy worker who left her 12-year-old son with his parents in Venezuela.

“Everything has gone wrong on this trip,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It is better that I go back to my country now. Yes, it’s time to go home.”

Around him, on the road where he stood, other Venezuelans slept under blankets, shivering in the bitter cold, some wanting to go back, but others determined to continue their journey north .

McDonnell is an editor and Sanchez Vidal is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Liliana Nieto del Rio contributed to this report.

Click here to read this note in English

World Nation News Desk
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