Death threat in their home country continues to push migrants towards the US-Mexico border

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico – As Vice President Kamala Harris said on Friday that the goal of her trip to El Paso was to understand the “root causes” of the growing influx of migrants in recent months, just on the other side of the border, Honduran migrant Manuel Medina had a simple explanation why thousands of people from other countries will continue to try to reach the United States: To stay alive while fleeing countries where their families are threatened by crime and violence.

“I didn’t leave my country and my wife because I wanted to. [Rising] the crime forced me to leave everything, [and] the only thing I want is for my family and I to be safe, ”said Medina, 37, who left Honduras in May 2019 after receiving threats from gang members.

Amid a chorus of criticism from mostly Republican politicians, Harris made his maiden trip to the southern border of the United States flanked by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill and the representative of El Paso Verónica Escobar.

For people like Medina, neither restrictive immigration policies, nor dangerous travel across multiple countries, border walls, and not even statements by politicians deter them from seeking to rebuild their lives in the United States.

Medina lived for two years in the El Buen Samaritano refuge in this city, run by a religious organization, with her 15-year-old son Nahúm Medina. Their asylum application was initially rejected in 2019 and he remained in Ciudad Juárez under migrant protection protocols, waiting for a second chance.

The MPP or “Remain in México” program was created in 2019 by the Trump administration, which required asylum seekers to stay in Mexico. In May there was 71,002 active cases.

The Biden administration eliminated this program at the start of its presidency in January, but on June 22 it announced that candidates whose petitions were rejected under MPP policy – and had to wait in Mexico for their hearing dates. in court – will have another chance to seek humanitarian protection, depending on an announcement from the Ministry of Homeland Security. The new registration started on Wednesday.

This latest announcement renews Medina’s hope of being able to live and work in the United States, far from the danger of the gangs that afflict her country.

Medina re-registered the same day and received an email informing him that his case had been entered into the system and that he must now wait for immigration authorities to contact him for a hearing date.

“I’m very hopeful, I think our chance is presenting itself; these people (President Joe Biden and Harris) appear to be good and with a good heart; a human heart and they want to help people like me, ”Medina said.

Trip to Ciudad Juárez

Medina worked in construction and lived with his wife and three children in the department of Cortés, Honduras, but the threat of violence was still looming: he had to pay gang members $ 200 a week or his life and that of his. family would be at risk.

So in 2019, Medina made a heartbreaking decision: to leave her family and migrate north with her son Nahúm.

He and his son traveled by bus from Honduras to Guatemala, then from Guatemala they crossed Mexico to Ciudad Juárez, and the first thing they did was apply for asylum at the Paso del Norte International Bridge, the same that Vice President Harris visited on Friday, and from which hundreds of migrants are deported each week to Mexico.

Manuel Medina (left), 37, and his son, Nahúm, 15, are shown outside the El Buen Samaritano shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, across the border with El Paso.  They stay at the shelter while waiting for a chance to claim asylum in the United States

Since then he has stayed at the El Buen Samaritano (The Good Samaritan) refuge, which is run by a church. As of Friday, they had 55 people from different countries, including Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In January, they had over 150 people.

Juan Fierro, pastor and coordinator of the shelter, said the number of people in the shelter has declined over the past month and this is because more immigrants who are waiting to receive asylum under the title policy 42, have resolved their petition and many are already in the United States.

Under Title 42, people who attempt to enter the United States can be returned to their home country or where they attempted to enter the country to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The Biden administration has maintained this policy, although it allows minors to stay if they are traveling unaccompanied.

Intensifying criticism of Biden

But criticism of the Biden administration has intensified – including demands from Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other politicians – accusing the White House of being weak in the fight against undocumented and responsible immigration. a growing “crisis” on the border with Mexico.

And potential immigrants continue to arrive at the border.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that in May, more than 180,000 “encounters” with migrants along or along the southern border, the highest number since March 2000. The Biden administration classifies as “encounters” all interactions of immigration officials with persons not authorized to be in the country, including arrests, detentions, rescues or sending migrants – minors or adults – to detention centers or shelters.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a press conference on the southern United States border and the immigration policies of President Joe Biden at the Hart Senate office building on May 12, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images)

Responding to this criticism, Vice President Harris said during her visit to Guatemala two weeks ago: “Don’t come,” about people intending to migrate to the United States.

But this message does not influence the resolve of people like Medina and those who are fleeing violence and lacking opportunities for a better life in their country of origin.

“Even if the authorities say ‘don’t come’, it won’t stop anyone. Poverty, violence, crime and gangs in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and all these places will not stop, ”he added. “In my country, there are no opportunities, you can’t be calm; gang members are better armed than the police, how to live in peace.

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