With immigration proceedings indefinitely delayed by COVID-19, some migrants drown attempting to cross the Rio Grande
With immigration proceedings indefinitely postponed by the coronavirus pandemic, some migrants are attempting to cross the Rio Grande illegally — and drowning.
Under a controversial program called the Migrant Protection Protocols, the federal government is sending migrants back to Mexico "for the duration of their immigration proceedings," according to the U.S Department of Homeland Security.
The duration of those proceedings, however, is increasingly unclear because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"For example, if you had a court date in March, your case was postponed until May. And then May came, and your case would be postponed until July. And then July came, and there was just kind of a blanket statement issued that the courts were not going to be open until certain criteria were met," said Andrea Rudnik, a member of Team Brownsville, a volunteer organization that assists migrants in Matamoros.
Meanwhile, migrants are living in squalid camps in Matamoros. Desperate for a way out, some are attempting to cross the Rio Grande illegally.
"It's caused people to think about what their options are, as far as: Do they go back to their home countries? Do they decide to apply for asylum in Mexico? Or do they decide to find alternative ways to cross into the United States?" Rudnik said.
Rudnik said she's heard of four drownings near the migrant camp in Matamoros.
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