Matamoros Migrants Threatened with Child Separation

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MATAMOROS, TAMPS, Mex. – The threat of family separation surfaced on the other side of the border Friday morning.

Matamoros migrants are saying state officials are threatening to take their children away. 

U.S. asylum policies have left migrants waiting for months on the Mexican side of the border.

Many have children.

They're struggling to stay safe and healthy, so the state of Tamaulipas is offering shelter.

The state says it's not obligatory, but today's threats sent a different message.

This morning migrants received a visit from state representatives carrying clipboards, talking about what their children are lacking and issuing threats.

In a video recorded by migrants an officials is seen saying, of the children "they're ending up in the hospital, they're not getting attention. So, I'm here to offer them that. If you don't want to, the law authorizes me to -- and this is not going to hurt you, it'll hurt your child and your family because then I'll take the child and send them back to their home country. Then they'll go to a shelter over there."

Conditions at the tents or makeshift shelters along the river are concerning.

Children are suffering alongside their parents.

A migrant indigenous child from Chiapas, Mexico died Sunday.

He was a victim of a hit-and-run in Matamoros the week prior.

The city created a shelter for the migrants, but they're not going. 

U.S. civil rights attorneys are taking note of the situation.

Erin Thorn Vela, a staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, TCRP, says, "We're looking at cases that may be civil rights violations. We're looking at overall kinks in the program. Is there any other sort of federal lawsuit that we're able to bring?"

Vela and the TCRP recently threatened filing a federal lawsuit when CBP would not use discretion to effectively interview a deaf migrant seeking asylum.

They're seeing the situation unfold and understand why migrants are distrustful of Mexican officials.

"People are rightly concerned about whether they'll be able to make it back for their court hearings if they give themselves up to these buses," says Vela. "Because we have a lot of examples of the Mexican military sending people all the way to Tapachula."

What happened Friday did not improve relations between officials and migrants. 

In the recorded video, the same state official is heard saying, "The law allows me to do what's an obligation. If you are not giving the children the attention they need."

A state official disputes that. Enrique Maciel, the regional director of the Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants assures they do not have the authority to take children away.

In spite of the threats issued, Maciel says no child was taken away. 

The state continues inviting migrants to stay at their shelter.

Thorn Vela says migrants feel more secure staying put. "It's unclear to us whether the city of Matamoros, or the state government of Tamaulipas can really deliver because these children really do have a lot of needs and you need to make sure they're in a safe situation."

U.S. aid continues arriving daily in the form of food, water and other basic needs donated from people across the country.

Tamaulipas state authorities say they are offering safety at the shelter but staying is optional. 

Maciel says they are aware of the incident and are reviewing the videos. They will be preparing an official statement. 


7 Days