JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – With a child by her side and backpacks with clothes lying on a bench, Juana buries her pride and asks motorists headed for the United States for “solidarity.”
The few coins that come her way will keep them from going hungry; a couple of dozen pesos a male friend will earn that day selling candy in Downtown Juarez will provide a roof over their heads during the coming night in which freezing temperatures were in the forecast.
“It is not easy. It is surviving,” the Honduran migrant says while putting her arm around the child’s shoulders. “It was a big risk coming here. But there are no jobs in my country. There are no options.”
Across the street, Miguel holds a sign saying, “Hello, we are migrants from Venezuela. Help us with any blessing. Thank you.” When the drivers ignore him, Miguel just smiles.
“We just want to eat a little. The shelters are full, and we need to get enough for a hotel, so our children don’t go cold tonight,” the migrant in his 20s says while his wife sits on a concrete block and feeds their daughter. Asked if people have been unkind to him, Miguel thinks about the question, then smiles again. “People in Juarez have helped us with little coins, a blanket, sometimes they bring us food,” he says.
Both families, one from South America, the other from the Northern Triangle of Central America, came to the U.S.-Mexico border last Monday expecting the United States to end the Title 42 public health policy last Wednesday. When that did not happen, and they were unable to request asylum in the U.S., they were stuck penniless thousands of miles from home. They are now among the dozen or so migrants spotted this week in Juarez asking El Paso, Texas-bound drivers for moneditas (spare change) for survival.
“It’s a tragic situation,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of El Paso’s Hope Border Institute. “Title 42 is unsustainable for law enforcement and most of all it’s unsustainable for the vulnerable people who need protection and need to access asylum.”
A federal judge in November vacated the Trump-era public health rule that has allowed border agents to expel more than 2 million migrants since 2020. The Biden administration asked for a Dec. 21 delay and got it, then a coalition of Republican attorneys general took their case to keep Title 42 in place to the Supreme Court and got a Christmas reprieve.
As of Thursday, Title 42 was keeping Venezuelans and most Central Americans from crossing the Rio Grande into the United States without risking expulsion.
Yaneris Torres, a Venezuelan mom who sold candy and offered to wash car windows near the Paso del Norte International Bridge, said she will wait until after Christmas – or however long it takes – for a chance to seek U.S. asylum.
“The 24th and the 31st are going to be days like any other for me,” Torres said. “I want to go to the other side. I want my children to have a better future, my husband here and my mother in Venezuela to have a better future. We are here; we are at the end of the road.”
Torres said she and her husband were riding a train in Mexico known as La Bestia (The Beast) when the Biden administration on Oct. 12 stopped admitting Venezuelans who cross the U.S. border illegally. After almost three months in Mexico, she’s not going to give up on her goal. On Thursday, her main concern was earning enough donations to get a hotel room for her family.
Corbett said Hope Border Institute is working with partners in Mexico to provide as much assistance as possible to asylum-seekers stuck in Juarez due to Title 42.
“We are very concerned because the decision of the (Supreme) Court comes at a time when temperatures are freezing in El Paso and Juarez and it’s going to place migrant lives in danger,” he said. “This is an illegal and inhumane policy and we’re confident that the Supreme Court will ultimately make the right decision, roll back Title 42 and that the administration will comply.”
Corbett called on border residents to respond to that call for “solidarity” from migrants in Juarez and in El Paso – where some released asylum-seekers also found themselves sleeping on the street.
“As a community, we know this is a challenge no doubt, but we can meet the challenge together to make sure no one is on the street in subfreezing temperatures,” he said. “El Paso is a community that has migration in its DNA. It’s a community that has compassion and generosity and hospitality in our bones. We have done it in the past and we can show the rest of the country by responding with humanity. We will all be better off for it.”