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📸Shelters Aim to Keep Up with Migrants Sent Back to Mexico Under Title 42

The pandemic has limited the capacity of the 18 shelters in Ciudad Juárez. But the U.S. has continued to expel migrants. The city's government has turned a local gym into a shelter and is considering opening other spaces for them.
11 May 2021 – 02:55 PM EDT
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Grecia Herrera, the founder of the Respetttrans shelter for trans women. The shelter opened in 2018, when a caravan of Central American migrants brought many people who were part of the trans community to the United States's southern border to request asylum. Before the pandemic, the shelter housed between 70 and 100 people. Covid-19 caused the number of residents to fall dramatically to 30. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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The shelter has the capacity to house 400 people on four different floors. But because of the pandemic, it could only attend to half that number. Since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, the shelter's population has increased. It is now operating at full capacity, with over 200 people a day. The majority of them are not part of the trans community. They are migrants who have been expelled from the U.S. under Title 42. The U.S. policy of sending people back to Mexico immediately after they crossed the border surprised Mexican officials and the organization that sought to house them. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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Repetttrans is one of the 18 shelters that operate in Ciudad Juárez. It is located in a poor area in the city's center. From the window, you can see the Rio Grande and the U.S.-Mexico border wall. The non-profit shelter depends on individual donations, but those have dwindled during the pandemic. At moments when donations have not been enough, the shelter has asked migrants to donate money, even if they have only five pesos, to pay for food, diapers, and other items that are needed. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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"No shelter was prepared," Herrera said of the migrants sent to Ciudad Juárez under Title 42. "We took into account that the number of migrants was going to go up, but we did not know that it was going to happen so quickly," she added. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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The Good Samaritan is another shelter in Ciudad Juárez. It is located on the northeast edge of the city, in an area of dirt roads. Access is limited. Pastor Juan Fierro took over the shelter in 2017, when it was exclusively for men. But in 2018, the many migrants arriving at the border forced the shelter to change its policy. "I had to make a decision to receive both men and women," he recalled. As migrants have been expelled under Title 42 to cities along the border, including Ciudad Juárez, he has allowed families with children to stay there. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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Since mid-March, when the U.S. started expelling many more migrants to Ciudad Juárez under Title 42, the population at the Good Samaritan shelter has increased 200% by Fierro's estimate. More migrants have been expelled to Mexico because more have tried to cross the border, in part because of misinformation about the reopening of the U.S. border and false messaging by smugglers, who have promised migrants that they will be allowed to stay in the U.S. if they have small children. Crédito: Patricia Clarembaux/Univision
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Rosa Mani is the coordinator of a hotel run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Ciudad Juárez. It serves as a filter for migrants. They are quarantined in separate rooms in order to avoid an outbreak of Covid-19 in the city's shelters. The hotel has been operating since May 2020. It has been used by asylum-seekers who were returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, people who were homeless during the pandemic, and migrants who were expelled under Title 42, who make up 60% of the population. The hotel has 47 rooms, 10 of which are for people who tested positive for Covid-19. The remainder are for migrants who are waiting for shelter spaces to become available. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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"With the Migrant Protection Protocols, we knew that they would tell people to wait for six months to a year, because everyone got a paper with their court date. Now, with Title 42, we don't know how long they're going to wait," said Pastor Juan Fierro, whose shelter now houses primarily women and kids. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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On April 5, 2021, the municipality opened a gymnasium to migrants in order to take the pressure off the network of other shelters and allow the city to provide a roof to more people. That same day, the new shelter received 43 migrants, including 14 kids and 29 adults. Staff intended to test migrants for Covid-19 before allowing them in, but the testing equipment did not arrive, so they asked people to sleep with a bunk bed separating each of them. Crédito: Patricia Clarembaux/Univision
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"We decided to open a shelter because there were more people arriving and the other shelters in the city were already at full capacity," said Rogelio Pinal, the top human rights official in Ciudad Juárez. In two days, officials filled the gymnasium with 200 beds, 400 cots, and 400 blankets. They selected the space in part because of how close it is to the police station. They are uncertain when they will have to close it. Pinal said that they are evaluating which other spaces in the city could be used as shelters. Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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"I think no officials were prepared for this," Pinal said. They did not realize so many migrants would be sent back to Mexico by the U.S., so they did not take measures to prepare for the current number of people arriving. "We are used to having migrants who are heading to the U.S., but we do not know for how long we can continue to receive this quantity of people." Crédito: Anna Clare Spelman/Univision
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RELACIONADOS:Améxica•Title 42•undocumented immigrants •U.S.-Mexico border•

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