JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – For a second consecutive day, Mexican police in riot gear removed Venezuelan migrants from a makeshift camp near the Rio Grande.
Monday’s action took place at a park in the Bella Vista neighborhood where some 100 Venezuelans ousted Sunday from a tent camp along the Rio Grande moved to, rather than go to shelters.
“There will be a police presence to prevent them from going to the river. I know that today we see them in other places. We’ll start a dialogue because we are trying to avoid new settlements,” City Secretary Hector Ortiz said at a news conference on Monday.
A day earlier, Juarez police and Mexican National Guard troops showed in force at a tent camp along the Rio Grande occupied by nearly 600 Venezuelan and Central American migrants were staying since mid-October.
A scuffle broke out when the migrants realized they were being kicked out, but in the end, they left of their own accord, Ortiz said.
“The International Boundary and Water Commission had alerted us to some safety concerns. There was a risk of drownings with the tents to close to the river. There was also a high risk of fire. They had a lot of tents with blankets inside and at the same time they had wood stoves and lit fires at night to mitigate the cold temperatures,” Ortiz said. “They were in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. […] This was communicated to (the migrants), we realized we would not convince them to leave, so at noon the cleanup began.”
The city brought buses to the river so the Venezuelans could go to shelters. But out of the 600 ousted on Sunday, only 94 agreed to go to shelters.
“We are not going because what they want is to lock us up, to bury us as if we were not human beings,” said Gladys Belen, a Venezuelan migrant kicked out of the riverbank tent city on Sunday and from the Bella Vista park on Monday. “They will keep us at the shelter for a week, they will ask us for a valid reason every time we want to go out [….] and then they will send us back (to Venezuela).”
Fernando Garcia, head of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, called the migrants’ removal “inhumane.”
“The BNHR is appalled and immensely disappointed by the Mexican authorities’ actions to evict hundreds of Venezuelan asylum seekers from ‘Little Venezuela, an encampment located along the Rio Grande river,” Garcia said. “Children, women, and families were subjected to unnecessary violence and confrontation. As a human rights organization, we condemn violence and the use of force against human lives, regardless of the grounds or the entity that provokes it.”
He called on Mexican authorities to cease using force against individuals and families who are seeking in the United States the safety they could not find in their own countries. He said the organization would continue to be vigilant of further violence against migrants.
Meantime, Ortiz and Juarez Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar on Monday said they don’t understand why the Venezuelans won’t go to shelters and denied Mexican authorities plan to deport them back to their country.
Ortiz characterized the migrants’ desire to be in a highly visible place such as the Rio Grande – just across from a U.S. Border Patrol temporary processing camp in El Paso, Texas – as a political protest.
Thousands of Venezuelans were processed there prior to Oct. 12 and, in many cases, released on parole to shelters in El Paso whether they had sponsors or not. After that, Venezuelans crossing the river were expelled under the Title 42 public health order. Mexican officials said many of those were expelled not through Juarez, but other far-off Mexican border cities.
A U.S. federal judge in Washington, D.C., has ruled Title 42 unlawful and given the Biden administration until Dec. 21 to do away with it.
Officials in El Paso and in Juarez have told Border Report they expect a new, perhaps unprecedented new surge of asylum-seekers whenever Title 42 goes away.
Dismantling of migrant tent camps ‘no human rights violation’
Asked if the police action against the Venezuelans was lawful, City Human Rights Office coordinator Santiago Gonzalez Reyes said it’s not a human rights violation to prevent people from doing harm to themselves or to their children. He said several children and adults had come down with respiratory illnesses since the cold weather began to set in a couple of weeks ago.
Further, he said as soon as some Venezuelans left the tent camp, others started coming in. “More than a camp, it was becoming a station. You saw people on a given week, and the following week they were not there anymore. That’s why the dialogue became fruitless,” he said.
Perez Cuellar said U.S. officials have told their Mexican counterparts that rules have been set for Venezuelan asylum-seekers and they will not be bent. He believes the migrants are either being misinformed or manipulated by third parties.
“I don’t know who is manipulating them,” the mayor said on Monday. “Juarez is very generous to migrants; what we are offering at the shelters is a thousand times better” than to be inside a tent by the river.