By Manuel Ayala
Tijuana, Mexico, Jul 28 (EFE) – Migrant families with children, frustrated by their inability to schedule asylum appointments via a United States government app, are increasingly making desperate attempts to cross the border from Mexico, civil organizations say.
Over the past week, two dangerous situations in the northwestern Mexican state of Baja California have particularly drawn the attention of authorities and activists.
A report by Mexico’s National Institute of Migration (INM) said a group of five migrants from Peru and Colombia, including a minor, were abandoned on July 18 by a “coyote” (migrant smuggler) who had been leading them through La Rumorosa, a windy mountain pass located east of Tijuana.
The report said the migrants called the 911 emergency number; after a 15-hour search, members of Tijuana’s Grupo Beta migrant protection service found the dehydrated and physically exhausted group.
Five days later, INM agents identified another large group of migrants attempting to cross into the US in an area located one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the El Chaparral border crossing.
During the attempt to take the group into custody, a nine-year-old girl became separated from her mother and joined another group that attempted to flee the scene.
The agents immediately alerted US authorities of the situation, and members of the Border Patrol in San Diego, California, found the minor a day later and reunited her with her family, the INM report said, without providing further details.
AFTER THE END OF TITLE 42
The dynamic at the border has changed following the May 11 expiration of the US’s Covid-era Title 42.
That policy had allowed for the rapid expulsion of migrants for public health reasons and was harshly criticized by human rights groups who said people fleeing violence were being denied the chance to apply for asylum.
At the same time, it encouraged some people to cross the border illegally because there were no criminal penalties for repeated attempts to do so.
Migrants now are subject once again to Title 8 pre-pandemic rules, which typically allow migrants fleeing violence in their homelands to seek asylum.
But President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to discourage migrants from crossing the border illegally to submit those applications.
It has warned of steep consequences for unlawful entry and told would-be asylum-seekers to use other avenues, including the CBPOne app (for those located in Central and Northern Mexico), for scheduling asylum appointments.
Immigration activists, however, say some asylum-seekers have grown frustrated with months-long wait times for an appointment and opted to make the dangerous border crossing.
Although overall irregular migrant encounters at the US border dropped by 50 percent between May and June, following the end of Title 42, there was a 36 percent increase in irregular border crossings by families traveling together between June and July, Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Bárcena said this week.
LONG WAIT TIMES
“Appointments through the CBPOne application are taking too long,” Jose Maria Garcia Lara, coordinator of Tijuana’s Migrant Alliance, told Efe.
He said appointments are being made via the app but “there’s a community in the shelters that hasn’t benefited and that’s why they’re trying to cross illegally,” he said.
The activist stressed that his organization constantly advises the migrant community that “the right thing to do is to wait, to be patient.”
“I know it’s not easy. But risks must be avoided, especially when we’re talking about women with children and families in general,” he said.
EXPANDING ACCESS TO LEGAL MIGRATION PATHWAYS
To address these ongoing problems, the White House said Friday after meetings this week in Mexico between President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and a US government delegation that additional steps will be taken to expand access to safe, orderly and legal migration pathways.
“Today we are announcing our full support for an international multipurpose space that the Government of Mexico plans to establish in southern Mexico to offer new refugee and labor options for the most vulnerable people who are currently in Mexico,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
“We also commit to accept refugee resettlement referrals from qualified individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who are already in Mexico.”
Sullivan said these latest moves build on earlier efforts to expand legal pathways for migrants hoping to relocate to the US.
“We encourage migrants to use these legal pathways instead of putting their lives in the hands of dangerous smugglers and traffickers.” EFE