Migrants near US border face cold wait for key asylum ruling

Dec 22, 2022, 8:00 AM | Updated: Dec 23, 2022, 8:02 am

Migrants seek refuge from winter weather in a crowded shelter near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juáre...

Migrants seek refuge from winter weather in a crowded shelter near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. Hundreds of migrants are gathered in unusually frigid cold temperatures along the Mexican-U.S. border near El Paso, Texas, awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether and when to lift pandemic-era restrictions that prevent many from seeking asylum. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

(AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Hairdresser Grisel Garcés survived a harrowing, four-month journey from her native Venezuela through tropical jungles, migrant detention centers in southern Mexico and then jolting railcar rides north toward the U.S. border.

Now on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande across from El Paso, Texas, she anxiously awaits a U.S. Supreme Court decision on asylum restrictions expected to affect her and thousands of other migrants at crossings along some 1,900 miles (3,100 kilometers) of border from Texas to California. And she’s doing so while living outside as winter temperatures plunge over much of the U.S. and across the border.

She told of fleeing economic hardship only to find more hardship, such as now shivering through temperatures that have fallen into the 20s (below -1 Celsius) at night, colder than she’s ever experienced.

“You just turn yourself over to God’s mercy,” said Garcés, who left a school-aged daughter behind, hoping to reach the U.S. with her husband.

Their savings exhausted, some days they don’t eat. And on Thursday, Garcés waited and watched as hundreds of migrants formed a line to gradually pass through a gate in the border fence for processing by U.S. immigration officials. She fears immediate deportation under current asylum restrictions and doesn’t dare cross the shallow waters of the Rio Grande within view.

Dozens of migrants have been spending their nights on the concrete banks of the river, awaiting word of possible changes to the asylum restrictions put in place in March 2020. In El Paso, sidewalks serve as living quarters outside a bus station and a church for some migrants who can’t find space yet at an expanding network of shelters underwritten by the city and religious groups.

In Ciudad Juárez, a group of Venezuelan migrants huddled under blankets beside a bonfire in a dirt alleyway.

“We’re from the coast (of Venezuela) with lots of sun and the cold affects us,” said 22-year-old Rafael Gonzalez, a native of La Guaira on the Caribbean coast. “The shelter here is very full. … And that means it’s our turn to be here, having a little bonfire.”

Nearby, migrants from Venezuela and Central America sought refuge in a three-room shelter without beds, lying shoulder-to-shoulder among blankets on a concrete floor.

Pastor Elias Rodriguez of the Casa Nueva Voz ministry began repairing an abandoned building in recent weeks to open the shelter, after growing concerned about the emergence of a small “tent city” along the Rio Grande without even a water faucet.

“Outside there are people making fires, people waiting by the door because we only have 135 spaces,” Rodriguez said.

The Trump administration-era ban on asylum — Title 42 — was granted a brief extension by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts this week. It’s not clear when the Supreme Court’s definitive decision will come. The Biden administration asked the court to lift the restrictions, but not before Christmas.

Under Title 42, authorities have expelled asylum-seekers inside the U.S. 2.5 million times, and turned away most people who requested asylum at the border, on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Title 42 applies to all nationalities but has most affected people from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and, more recently, Venezuela.

Immigration advocates have sued to end the use of Title 42, saying the policy goes against American and international obligations to people fleeing persecution and is outdated now that coronavirus treatments have improved.

Conservative-leaning states appealed to the Supreme Court, warning an increase in migration would take a toll on public services and cause an “unprecedented calamity” with which they fear the federal government has no plan to deal.

Hundreds of migrants fashioned a makeshift encampment — with black plastic bags for tents — in a park in Matamoros, Mexico, near Brownsville, Texas.

Shivering in the cold after his recent expulsion from the U.S., a former Venezuelan navy military policeman, Carlos Hernandez, said he, his wife and their 3-year-old daughter recently struggled through the cold river, only to be turned back after reaching the other side.

Hernandez said he had a falling out with superiors in Venezuela for refusing orders to take action against government opponents in the navy. He said he hoped to cross again and eventually reach Canada.

In Ciudad Juárez, Edwin Lopez of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, said he arrived three months ago with his wife and three sons, ages 4, 9 and 13. They’ve been expelled once from the U.S. after crossing to request asylum, he said.

As temperatures dropped Thursday, they arranged blankets on the floor of a shelter into a tidy bed.

“We feel good, we’re comfortable. Not really like we would want to be as if we were in our own home, but what more can we ask for?” Lopez said. “It’s better than being out there, enduring the cold, exposed to robberies (and) abuses.”


Spagat reported from Tijuana, Mexico. Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report from Matamoros, Mexico.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

10 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

2 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

2 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

3 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

3 days ago

Juanita Beach Kirkland...

Kathy McCormack and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

‘Tis the season for swimming and bacteria alerts in lakes, rivers

With summer about to start, many people flocking to their favorite swimming holes may also want to read up on bacteria warnings.

4 days ago

Migrants near US border face cold wait for key asylum ruling