CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — An exodus of migrants fleeing drug cartel violence and corruption in Mexico has mired hundreds of immigrants in ramshackle tent camps across the border from El Paso and brought new chaos to a system of wait lists for asylum seekers to get into the U.S.
Migrant tent camps have been growing in size at several border crossings in Ciudad Juarez, driven by a surge in asylum seekers from regions in southern Mexico gripped by cartel violence.
One camp in Juarez is populated by about 250 Mexican asylum seekers, who are living in increasingly cold conditions as they wait for U.S. authorities to let them in to the country.
They are among thousands of immigrants along the border waiting in Mexican cities, often for several months at a time under daily quotas set by Customs and Border Protection officials that govern how many people get to request asylum at each location.
The wait lists are typically run by local Mexican officials and organizations in consultation with the U.S. government, but the Mexican immigrants rejected the lists in Juarez and opted to organize their own system at each port of entry. Officials in both countries agreed that Mexican immigrants should have their own waiting list and not one managed by government authorities in Mexico because many of them are fleeing corrupt government authorities in Mexico.
“American officials told us you know what, we can’t deny Mexicans entry. In the end it’s the country that they’re fleeing,” said Enrique Valenzuela, director of Ciudad Juarez’s Centro de Atención a Migrantes.
The latest developments in Ciudad Juarez appear to be the first time that CBP has honored multiple lists in a single city, spawning a new level of confusion and competing camps with hundreds of Mexicans at each one as temperatures fall below freezing. Critics of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies have condemned the wait list system and a separate program, known as Remain in Mexico, that has sent tens of thousands of migrants back in Mexico as their immigration court cases to play out.
Customs and Border Protection officials say they have no role in operating the lists and are merely performing “queue management” at border crossings based on capacity to process asylum seekers.