CIUDAD ACUÑA, Mexico ( Associated Press) — Inside the walls of some homes in Ciudad Acua, a remote corner of the Coahuila-Texas border, are an unknown number of frightened Haitian migrants. They do not set foot in the street for fear of arrest and open the door only to friendly voices.
He is among thousands of Haitians who briefly set up camp in the Texas border city of Del Rio and found a helping hand across the river in Ciudad Acua, Mexico.
Virginia Salazar and her husband Mensa Montant are two of them. female, Mexican; He hails from Togo, a small country in sub-Saharan Africa from where he immigrated nine years ago. They leave rice in one house, medicines in another, they look for mattresses.
“I have an expatriate family: my husband, a sister who has documents and another is illegitimate and I was born,” says Salazar. “What they are doing to the Haitians seems inhumane to me” because they are arresting and locking them up “as it has never been done to other migrants in this city,” he says.
A group of 14,000 Haitians traveling from here to Del Rio in just a few days this week put a lot of pressure on both countries. Despite the fragile situation in the poorest Caribbean nation in the Western Hemisphere, the United States began repatriating thousands of people to Haiti.
Others, fearing deportation, returned to Mexico, which accelerated arrests and relocation south to decongest this area of the border and plan to return to the Caribbean country in the coming days.
Within a week, both governments evacuated the camps built on both sides of the Rio Grande. However, thousands of Haitians are still in Mexico, with thousands more on their way from South America, and it seems that it is only a matter of time before a new wave hits the gates of the United States.
Salazar, who works as a cleaner, and Montant, a tailor whose first job in Mexico was making vests for immigration agents, do not know that in this relatively quiet town of Maquiladora compared to other points along the border How many can be hidden? (It doesn’t sound tempting for a drug cartel to have only one way in and out.)
The couple have supported a dozen Haitians as they did with Africans arriving with the caravan in 2019 and who, unlike now, had an easier time getting documents to work temporarily in the city.
24-year-old beautician Andrea Garcia has her family of six spread across multiple homes.
“They came to my house alone, with the kids, and they said that to help them, they had nowhere to go,” she says. “The humanitarian visas of two of those who stayed with me were taken away”, he says during a review. And though she went on a stay to see how they could be changed, she got no answer.
After operations in the city’s hotels, access to these private homes on loan or rent represents a bit more security for those who want to wait here to calm down and look for work.
“For the first time in days, today I haven’t slept with one eye open and the other closed,” says Haitian Atlov Dorisker, 32, who hid in the bushes for hours with his wife and 3-year-old. -Old daughter when on Thursday a huge police apparatus closed the camp on the bank of the river.
When the surveillance was eased, they were able to reach the home of Salazar and Montant, whom they had met while distributing food.
There he bathed and still got scared. She couldn’t hold back tears of gratitude for the marriage that helped her. Through them, he learned of a house rented for $50 a month with two bedrooms, two mattresses, a table and a fan, and now his family shares with another Haitian. He was released by a compatriot who went to Mexicali, on the border with California, to try to complete his paperwork more quickly than the South.
Most Haitians want a permit with which they can work temporarily in Mexico, even if their medium-term destination is the United States. The Mexican government said this week that they were welcome in the country but were regulated.
The problem is that the official body that carries out the processes is overwhelmed – it received 19,000 refugee applications this year alone – and the city that receives all migrants in the south, Tapachula, where most of these requests come from, is a bottleneck. Where the patience of the migrants ended.
“There are many immigrants in Tapachula, many, and they are not working, they are not providing documents,” complains Dorisker.
Those who help him are also afraid because they fear that the authorities may chase them.
Alicio Ortiz no longer takes Haitians in his taxi because three months ago he was fined 18,000 pesos, about $900, for taking a group. “They accused me of being a smuggler,” he said. Others avoid fines, he explained, because they bribe the police.
“It’s a concern because Mexican immigration is coming into homes and not allowing them to do their procedures,” says stylist Andrea García. “But it’s more sad than scary, they see a migration van and they start praying.”
When the couple went to Dorisker to collect snow, they reminded the family not to look out into the street as immigrants had arrived at their home shortly before and surrounded Montant. “What happened, what happened? I have my papers”, he assured, showing them his Mexican residence.
After a week of intense activity, hundreds of Haitians who used to walk through city streets with bags full of food – filled with exchange houses, dentists and bars – have disappeared.
There are also no buses to transfer migrants south, always with the great hits of the Beatles as a backdrop that depart from the surrounding campus.
“All this (arrest) makes me feel bad, not being able to help them, not being able to give them a job,” says Manuel Casillas, 65, the owner of the place, who has spent his life living on either side of the border.
Though it seems to be coming to an end, he is sure that more migrants will come back. “I feel like another wave is coming.”