MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) — Migrants wanting to request asylum camped out on a U.S.-Mexico border bridge Thursday October 10th, leading to a half-day closure of a span linking the Mexican city of Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas.
Hundreds of migrants from Central America and elsewhere stretched out on the bridge before dawn, with some lying on mats or their coats. The crowd included children and babies.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that traffic on the Gateway International Bridge “was temporarily halted at about 1:30 a.m. after a group of 250-300 migrants without entry documents” gathered at the bridge’s midpoint.
The blockage also caused long lines to form at the other international crossings leading out of Matamoros.
But in the late afternoon, after a 13-hour shutdown, the migrants left and U.S. authorities reopened the crossing, which handles about 80% of the Brownsville-Matamoros pedestrian traffic.
Ernesto Banegas, 51, a construction worker from Honduras, said migrants moved to the bridge after rumors spread that they might be allowed to enter the United States.
The migrants said they were tired of waiting to make their initial claims for asylum at the U.S. border crossing.
“We do not want to block traffic. We just want someone to talk to us, and this was the only way to do it,” said Banegas, who fled his country after his 5-year-old son was kidnapped.
Carla Moradel, 21, who was sent back to Mexico after crossing into the U.S., said she has been waiting for two months and just wanted officials to say “yes or no.”
“If they had clearly told me, ‘No,’ I would have gone back to Honduras, but I think there is still a chance,” said Moradel, who also left Honduras with her 5-year-old son because she couldn’t find work.
Under a policy known as metering, U.S. officials at many border bridges accept only a few asylum-seekers a day. The Associated Press found about 19,000 names on waiting lists in four border cities visited in late July.
Frustration with U.S. policies aimed at limiting asylum requests has sparked mass attempts to cross border entries before. But Thursday’s camp-out on the Mexican side of the Matamoros bridge appeared to be more of a protest than an attempt to cross.