New Site to Offer Matamoros Migrants Temporary Shelter
MATAMOROS, TAMPS, MEXICO - Hundreds of migrant families living for months on Matamoros international bridges to enter the U.S. will soon have a new shelter option.
Crowding concerns led to the creation of a new shelter which will be optional, but it comes with challenges.
A woman scrubbing clothes spread over a rock by the Rio Grande, another carefully considering each step climbing the steep embankment -- these is a vignette of an ambulant life for nearly 1600 people waiting in Mexico.
Pending immigration court dates at BrownsvilleCBP facilities or a chance to make an asylum claim in the U.S. keep migrants bound to the plaza at the Gateway International Bridge on the Matamoros side.
Tents or makeshift tents are crowding the plaza. City officials for Matamoros say this happened organically, but it shouldn't have.
Enrique Alberto Maciel, Regional Delegate for Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants, says, "Without asking for any permission they settled in the plaza."
Maciel believes migrants are choosing to stay there.
He explained those sent back under the Migrant Protection Protocol have permits to live and work anywhere in Mexico until their court hearings come up in the U.S.
Others were granted political asylum in Mexico in the southern states. "So, it's not the responsibility of the government to provide them shelter.
Simply, we're going to be helping them for purposes of public health and weather conditions. The plaza as such is not a shelter," adds Maciel.
Health conditions due to lack of resources like clean water and shelter led state and city officials to create the temporary shelter option, which they refer to as an assistance center.
They are preparing a large convention center known as Mundo Nuevo.
Many migrants expressed to officials, including Maciel, that they are not planning on leaving the plaza.
They fear losing their place in line to request asylum in the U.S. or straying from protection offered by the presence of the Mexican National Guard at the bridge, which is federal property.
State and local officials are working to bring a stationary clinic to offer medical services to migrants who go to the shelter.
Matamoros' mayor also made a commitment to help with the basics.
"The mayor made a commitment to provide shelter, food and to find a way to strategize transportation to the bridge when they have their court hearings," adds Maciel.
He says they also plan to include the state's education agency so they could develop a pilot program to provide educational opportunities to migrant children.
Security will be provided by either federal or state police, he says.
Federal budget cuts to migrant programs this year means streamlining this operation.
The city chose Mundo Nuevo, because it's city-owned property.
Maciel adds, "The costs we could run into are the ones related to the food, but the mayor committed to provide those."
They plan to continue allowing Team Brownsville and other similar civic organizations to visit migrants when the new shelter opens.
Maciel credited their work for the continuous support they've offered throughout the year to the thousands of people who have passed through Matamoros seeking entrance to the U.S.
The shelter is expected to open Monday. Maciel says migrants will not be forced to go.
If they choose to stay at the plaza, Maciel says they'll have to take their own measures to protect themselves.
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