Migrant Camps on the Increase in Mexico

Hundreds of tents formed a makeshift migrant encampment in a downtown plaza in Reynosa, Mexico, this month. Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Have the Biden administration’s efforts to prevent more migrant camps from forming and blocking a major border crossing to the United States been in vain? Migrant camps are on the increase in Mexico hoping to seek asylum in the United States.

On October 28th the U.S. ended a camp that once held 2,000 people. First lady Jill Biden sharply criticized a similar camp in Matamoros, bordering Brownsville, Texas, on a 2019 visit, saying, “It’s not who we are as Americans.” The Biden administration touted its work closing that camp in March, but others sprang up around the same time in nearby Reynosa and in Tijuana.

The camps, full of young children, are a product of policies that force migrants to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court or prohibit them from seeking asylum under pandemic-related public health powers. Uncertainty about U.S. asylum policies has also contributed to growing migrant populations in Mexican border cities, creating conditions for more camps.

“The authorities at every level were scared — scared of making a mistake, scared of doing something wrong and affecting their political careers,” Montserrat Caballero, Tijuana’s first female mayor said in an interview. “No one wants to deal with these issues.”

Is this why the Biden administration is stumbling because they do not want to deal with such a huge task?

“There is no asylum process (in the United States) until further notice,” Enrique Lucero, the city’s director of migrant services, told people who asked about U.S. policy on a morning walk-through.

The mayor plans to ask Mexico’s National Guard to help prevent camps from popping up again in Tijuana.

“The reality is that camps are going to be established if we are unprepared,” she said.

– Ella Breedlove

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