Originally Published in USA Today
Laura Villagran - March 17, 2021
JUÁREZ, Mexico – Maribel E. reached the top of the Paso del Norte bridge, where the USA ends and Mexico begins, clutching her 5-month-old baby in a black and white Mickey Mouse blanket.
The 36-year-old Honduran mother stopped at the top, just after 5 a.m., unsure of what to do next. The past hours had been harrowing. She had crossed the border illegally, in the desert dark and cold. The U.S. Border Patrol had taken her fingerprints and left her on the bridge back to a city that can be dangerous to those who don't know it.
“I couldn’t have imagined everything that happened,” she said. “I came to give my son a better future. I thought they were accepting women with children.”
Officials insist that the border is closed, but that message is ignored by smugglers called "coyotes" and thousands of people attempting unauthorized border crossings, and the Biden administration isn't applying its "closed border" policies evenly in Texas.
"The border is not open," said Troy Miller, the senior administration official performing the duties of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner. "We are moving as fast as we can to rebuild, but this is going to take time."
At the El Paso-Juárez border, the Border Patrol expels migrants to Mexico – including people from Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil and other nations – under the Title 42 public health law invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention a year agoto prevent the spread of COVID-19 in border holding facilities.
The Title 42 mandate prohibits the Border Patrol from holding people in "congregant settings."
The same week that border agents ejected Maribel E., who asked that her full name not be used because of her uncertain immigration status, dozens of migrant families who crossed with children in South Texas were flown up to El Paso – where some were processed for release into the USA.
Border Patrol Sector Chief Gloria Chavez told the El Paso Times that since March 8, “the El Paso Sector has been receiving a varying number of family units daily from the South Texas region” and that the agency’s “priority is to process them and expel them into Mexico under Title 42.”
“We work very closely with the government of Mexico and they also have capacity issues that we have to consider; therefore, only a limited amount of families from the region and from South Texas can be expelled into Ciudad Juárez daily in coordination with Mexico immigration officials,” Chavez said in an emailed statement.
“This has prompted us to coordinate with local El Paso city and county officials and non-governmental organizations to coordinate the release of families from the South Texas region to our local NGO shelter network,” she said.
El Paso's Annunciation House shelter receives families that are released, director Ruben Garcia said. The families are in addition to the organized, daily arrivals of migrants who wait in Juárez under the Migrant Protection Protocols.