Luis Miguel Montimo, 32, waits on the Gateway Bridge in Matamaros, Mexico in July with his girlfriend and one-year-old-son. He said his ex-wife started dating a gang member and the gang torched his home killing his 2 children inside.Carol Guzy/ZUMA
In the early morning hours on Monday, Mexican officials approached a group of about 30 migrants sleeping on the B&M Bridge between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico. The officials asked for their documents to see who had permission to be in Mexico. About a dozen migrants did not, and the Mexican officials detained them, according to recordings of interviews with migrants who witnessed the scene and advocates along the border.
Removing people from the bridges over the Rio Grande would represent a significant escalation in efforts to prevent asylum-seekers without Mexican transit visas from legally entering the United States at official ports of entry.
The group of migrants was sleeping on the B&M Bridge because US officials are now forcing asylum-seekers to wait—often for days—before they are allowed to set in foot in the United States and request protection from persecution. The removals come despite the fact that the Trump administration has repeatedly told asylum-seekers to come to ports of entry instead of crossing the border without authorization.
Jennifer Harbury, a Texas human rights lawyer, says US Customs and Border Protection and Mexican officials are working together to remove people on the bridges who don’t have permission to be in Mexico. Mexican officials are also trying to stop migrants who lack visas from getting onto the bridge between McAllen, Texas, and Reynosa, Mexico, in the first place. If they do get onto the bridge, Harbury says, CBP sometimes alerts Mexican officials and tells them to come and remove them. She says that a number of Mexican officials have told her that CBP calls their bosses, who instruct them to go detain the unauthorized people on the bridge. US officials are “checking for Mexican papers, which is not their job,” Harbury says.
CBP disputes that it is working with Mexican officials to remove people from bridges. “Mexico has its own laws and CBP would not ask them to do anything on our behalf,” a CBP spokesperson told Mother Jones in an email. The spokesperson also wrote, “Mexican immigration authorities screen third country nationals in accordance with their sovereign laws and policies. If a traveler is determined not to have legal status in Mexico, Mexican immigration authorities would will [sic] take the appropriate action.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada will continue to take in asylum seekers from the United States, while promising additional steps to ensure the safety of Canadians.
“One of the reasons why Canada remains an open country is Canadians trust our immigration system and the integrity of our borders and the help we provide people who are looking for safety,” Trudeau said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
“We will continue to strike that balance between a rigorous system and accepting people who need help.”
Canada has seen a rise in refugees crossing the border from the U.S. illegally in recent weeks amid growing fears of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants.The number of people making refugee claims at the U.S. border with Quebec doubled from 137 in January 2016 to 452 last month, Reuters reported. Police in Canada have reportedly increased their presence at the border.
The Canadian government announced Tuesday that it had taken in 400 Yazidi refugees and survivors of Islamist extremism and plans to take in 800 more by the end of the year, a move that will cost $28 million.
President Trump’s initial immigration executive order last month temporarily halted entry into the U.S. for nationals from seven predominantly Muslim nations and suspended the U.S. refugee program for four months, while indefinitely barring Syrian refugees.
The Trump administration is expected to unveil a new version of the order aimed at preventing terrorism this week, after Trump’s first order was blocked by a federal judge last month.