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Thread: Juarez waitlist grows to 5,500; Cubans make up the majority

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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Juarez waitlist grows to 5,500; Cubans make up the majority

    Want asylum? Take a number: Juarez waitlist grows to 5,500; Cubans make up the majority


    Lauren Villagran
    Published 6:00 a.m. MT June 21, 2019 | Updated 6:58 a.m. MT June 21, 2019

    JUÁREZ — Soraya Gamboa Gomez clutched a red plastic folder filled with her most important paperwork as she waited for her number to be called.
    The 48-year-old nurse was among dozens of Cuban migrants who crowded around a Mexican official, outside of a government building in Juárez, as he read from a list that would determine who could cross into El Paso that day to make their case for asylum.
    No. 11,377.
    No. 11,378.
    No. 11,379.

    Gamboa Gomez memorized her number — 11,435 — but with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in El Paso calling up no more than 20 asylum seekers per day in recent weeks, disappointment was almost guaranteed.

    CBP allowed only three asylum seekers that day from a list that was created in Juárez, after the U.S. began restricting asylum claims at ports of entry last year, leaving migrants sleeping on the Mexican side of the bridges for fear that they would lose their place in line.

    “Every day they are calling fewer,” Gamboa Gomez said with frustration in her voice.

    Cuban asylum seekers arrive at the Centro de Atencion Integral a Migrantes in Juarez. CAIM is processing asylum seekers an issuing numbers.
    (Photo: Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

    As hundreds of migrants continue to overwhelm U.S. border agents in El Paso, thousands more are waiting months in Juárez for their turn to cross an international bridge. They're on the list that has grown to 17,000 names and gained near mythic status in a city struggling to bring order to a chaotic flow of migrants headed north.
    Some 5,500 migrants — a majority of them Cuban — are still waiting to be called in a legal process they hope will protect them from being included in the U.S. program that returns asylum seekers to Mexico to await court hearings.

    But the "Remain in Mexico" program previously applied to Central Americans is expanding daily, and advocates say there are no guarantees that even those who wait their turn will be exempt.

    MORE: Border Patrol still holds migrants outside at international bridge as temperatures rise

    Last week, the first Cuban asylum seekers were sent back to Juárez under the program, according to Enrique Valenzuela, coordinator of the Chihuahua state agency known as Consejo Estatal de Población, or COESPO.

    That news left many Cuban migrants fearful that the months they've already waited could stretch into years.

    Still, many are showing up daily as the numbers are listed off, waiting to be called.

    The El Paso Times' questions regarding how the "Remain in Mexico" program is being currently implemented went unanswered by the Department of Homeland Security.

    Cubans have long enjoyed special privileges because of Cold War-era policies that gave preferential treatment to those who fled the Communist nation, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

    That changed in 2017 after President Barack Obama, in his last month in office, ended the so-called "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy, which let Cubans enter the U.S. without prior authorization. They are now subject to deportation.
    So, Cubans have joined migrants from other countries in seeking asylum through a complicated process that is constantly changing.

    New Cuban arrivals at the Centro de Atencion Integral a Migrantes are processed and given a number which will be called by U.S. immigration for their initial appearance.
    (Photo: Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

    Many bring stories of political persecution.Several told the El Paso Times they facedserious consequences after declining a mission to Venezuela, where the Cuban regime has been aiding President Nicolas Maduro's troubled government.

    MORE: Influx of Cuban migrants heading to El Paso create headaches for officials in Juarez

    Gamboa Gomez was one of them.

    After losing her government nursing job for refusing a mission to Venezuela, she made plans to leave the island. She traveled to Panama, then north to Mexico's southern border, where she said she was detained for more than two weeks. An attorney helped her secure a visa to travel through Mexico and she made it to Juárez with plans to seek asylum in the United States, where she hopes to join other Cuban nurses in San Antonio.

    On Tuesday, she arrived at the Chihuahua state-run migrant aid center with all her belongings in a single backpack, in hopes that she might finally get her chance.

    Gamboa Gomez said she fears being detained as a political prisoner in Cuba if she is returned.

    “When you become an inconvenience to the Cuban government," she said, "the government makes your life impossible.”

    The list — which began informally at a shelter but is now maintained by the Chihuahua state government — was a response to a CBP practice that immigrant advocates call "metering."

    In April 2018, CBP in El Paso began positioning officers at the dividing line with Mexico on the city's international bridges, preventing migrants from touching U.S. territory and claiming asylum — as is permitted by law.

    CBP began limiting the number of asylum seekers who could enter the country, saying that it did not have the ability to process the large numbers of migrants arriving at the ports of entry.

    A large crowd of mostly Cuban asylum seekers gather around a Grupos Beta official as he calls asylum numbers at the Centro de Atencion Integral a Migrantes.
    (Photo: Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

    To keep the asylum seekers from crowding bridges in an actual line, the Casa de Migrantes, a Catholic-run shelter on the east side of Juárez, began taking down their names and nationalities in ink, on a clipboard maintained by volunteers. Cubans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Russians and others signed on.

    In March, when the number of asylum seekers in Juárez hit 5,000, the Chihuahua agency known as Consejo Estatal de Población, or COESPO, took over the handwritten list and digitized it — one of the first formal efforts on the border to take some control of the situation and track migrants' place in line.

    There is no border-wide system to manage the migrants. In some cities such as Tijuana, the migrants themselves were at one point taking turns controlling the list in a spiral notebook.

    MORE: Immigrant asylum seekers risk everything to give children chance at a better life in US

    "The (Mexican) federal government still hasn’t taken on any role in coordinating the lists," said Maureen Meyer, director for migrant rights at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. "From Mexico’s part, it is because they don’t want to have ownership over something that is U.S.-driven."

    More recently, COESPO's migrant aid center created a closed Facebook group — "Solicitantes de Asilo," or Asylum Seekers — to post morning and evening the number of people being called by CBP.

    Other days, the group's administrator posts a message that never fails to generate dozens of comments from disappointed migrants:"Be informed that CBP will NOT receive people today."

    Honduran asylum seeker Christian Flores is escorted over the bridge after his number was called in Juarez Tuesday.
    (Photo: Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

    The group now has 5,000 members, including migrants and their families.

    "Ninety percent of those who register are Cubans," said Dirvin Garcia, who has been coordinating the center's efforts. "They prefer to wait in Juárez. They know that if they don't wait and don't cross by the bridge, their chances (of winning asylum) won't be as good."

    El Paso's CBP field office processed 8,877 single adult "inadmissables" — people who enter through a port of entry without permission, including asylum seekers — between October and May, more than double the 4,112 processed in the same period a year ago.

    Among those, the number Cuban "inadmissibles" swelled to 5,750 through the May, compared to fewer than 400 in the prior fiscal year period.

    Meanwhile, Border Patrol in the El Paso sector apprehended more than 104,000 migrant families and 19,000 single adults, who did not cross at the ports of entry, during the same period.

    Cuban asylum seeker Carlos Isabel Sanchez hugs fellow Cuban Soraya Gamboa Gomez after his number was called Tuesday at the Centro de Atencion Integral a Migrantes in Juarez. Under a new policy, he will likely be returned to Juarez to wait months for an initial hearing after being processed by Customs and Border Protection.(Photo: Mark Lambie / El Paso Times)

    Migrants caught in limbo south of the US border

    Rail-thin and wearing wire-frame glasses, Cuban Yoni Jaime (his first name is pronounced "Johnny") said he worked as an independent journalist in Cuba. The government shut down his organization's news website, he said, after it threatened the regime's interests. Jaime made his way to the U.S. border for two reasons, he said: political and economic.

    "In Cuba, you can't divorce the two," he said. "The politics define the economy."

    Now in Juárez, the Cubans and others waiting have no legal way to work. Some survive on money sent from family in the U.S. Others pick up odd jobs under the table.

    “It's not easy to get here, and it's not easy to file for political asylum.”

    The city is teeming with migrants caught in limbo. According to Mexico's National Migration Institute, the U.S. government has returned nearly 12,000 people to wait for their asylum hearings in three Mexican border cities. Juárez has taken the largest number, about 5,000.

    Jaime and a friend sell ice-cold bottles of water and cola for 10 pesos, about 50 cents, from a five-gallon paint bucket in the migrant center's lush courtyard, where the Cubans gather for the daily ritual of number-calling. The summer days grow hot by 9 a.m., even in the shade, and they do enough business to survive, Jaime said.

    The pace of Cuban arrivals in Juárez has slowed in recent days, Valenzuela said, as the Mexican government has cracked down on unauthorized migration.

    "It's not easy to get here, and it's not easy to file for political asylum," he said.

    When Gamboa Gomez knew it wasn't her turn, she reached over to one of the men whose number was called and hugged him tight. Carlos Sanchez, 28, was a friend of hers from her hometown in Cuba, and they had made the journey together. He planned to work in the oil fields of Odessa.

    A few minutes later, Sanchez followed a Mexican border agent toward the international bridge. As he marched behind the other chosen migrants, Gamboa Gomez hurried through the courtyard to bid him farewell.

    "Good luck, my love!" she said.

    Then she found a place in the shade to wait some more, this time for the afternoon's call.

    The call never came. In the Facebook group, the message the asylum seekers dread to see appeared in black letters on a rose-colored background: CBP wouldn't receive another group that day.
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  2. #2
    Moderator Beezer's Avatar
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    Apr 2016
    Load those Cubans up on military transport and send them to Guantanamo Bay for processing and release them out the front gate!








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