TAPACHULA, CHIAPAS.- The long wooden boats packed with migrants in orange life jackets arrived one after another, pushed down the Tuquesa River by outboard motors. By day’s end, authorities had registered some 2,000 migrants at this remote riverside outpost on the edge of the Darien jungle that links Panama and Colombia.
Some had vague information — from relatives, social media, smugglers — about coming border policy changes by the United States government and were hustling to make it to that distant border.
On May 11, the United States government will end pandemic-related restrictions on people requesting asylum at the border — also known as Title 42, under which migrants have been expelled from the U.S. more than 2.8 million times since March 2020.
The uncertainty around what happens after the end of the restrictions, as well as the prospect of new limits on asylum, was fodder for migrant smugglers to create an unnecessary sense of urgency for people making decisions with imperfect information.
Fearing a rush of arrivals, U.S. officials have expanded legal pathways, urged would-be migrants to register before making the journey, and proposed severely restricting asylum for people who travel through Mexico. They will deport those deemed not qualified with a five-year ban on re-entry.
As migrants made the Darien crossing, there were no visible signs on either side that efforts the U.S., Panama and Colombia promised a month ago would stem migration at this bottleneck between regions. If anything, the flow seemed to have increased during a year already at a record pace.
María Chirino Sánchez, 34, left Venezuela one month earlier in a group of 10 relatives, including her husband, four children, and dog Toby. Despite her job with a transportation company and her husband’s as a dental technician, they could not make ends meet.
At the urging of relatives in the U.S., they sold their house for $4,000 and set out, having heard that “they are not going to let us enter after (May) 11,” she said. They ran out of food and had to beg for crackers to feed their children before exiting the jungle. Like others, she said if she were sent back, she would not try this route again.
Mexican border cities are reporting increasing arrivals, many of whom are not waiting to see what happens after May 11. On Monday, U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said that over the previous 72 hours, agents had made about 8,800 apprehensions per day — up from about 5,200 in March.
The U.S. government for months has encouraged migrants to register with their online application CBP One rather than make the dangerous and expensive journey to the border. If applicants appear eligible for asylum and can line up with a financial sponsor in the U.S., they receive an appointment at the border for further screening.
Source: El Universal