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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Juárez: Migrants' situation worsens with decrease in support services

by Lourdes Cardenas
El Paso Times

CIUDAD JUAREZ -- The vulnerability of migrants has worsened in recent years not only due to the drug-related violence throughout Mexico, but also because of the conditions in which they are being deported from the United States, analysts said in a conference on immigration last week.

"Many come with nontreated health problems, poorly fed, without belongings," said Rodolfo Rubio, a researcher at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte. " They are even deported with the uniform of the detention center. They have no family or social networks (in the place where they are left), their situation is highly vulnerable."

The situation has deteriorated even more. Support services offered to migrants in cities such as Juarez are declining. In fact, Juarez's municipal office dedicated to provide services to migrants -- in transit or repatriated -- closed its operations in July.

A spokesman for the Juarez municipal government confirmed that the migrant services office (Oficina de Atención al Migrante) closed its operations July 19. He cited budget issues as one of the reasons.

"The office used to support returnees with a bus ticket to travel to their place of origin, as well as providing them food for the trip," said Luis Cano, city spokesman. "Migrants continue to receive support from state government through the office of the National Employment System, plus the federal government by the National Institute of Migration."

The decline began in 2009 when former mayor José Reyes Ferriz asked the U.S. immigration authorities to repatriate them to other places, arguing that many of the deportees were criminals that could be easily recruited by organized crime. At the time, between 60 and 65 percent of the deportees to Juarez would come from immigration detention centers in the United States.

Reyes' decision created a crisis to the institutions that provided services because of the lack of migrants to be served, Rubio said.

In 2008, only 1.2 percent of migrants going to the United States passed through Juarez, a percentage that continues today.

The same decline occurred with deportations. In 2004, 12.8 percent of those deported by all border-crossing points were sent to Juarez. Four years later, in 2008, the percentage stood at 9.8 percent. Today, there are no deportations to Juarez from U.S. detention centers. The bulk of the deportations (36.3 percent) now go through Tucson-Nogales.

The changes have made things difficult for those organizations that help migrants.

Take for instance, the "Casa del Migrante" of the Catholic Diocese of Juarez. It receives between 20 and 30 people daily, a figure that includes transit migrants and deported. The house can accommodate up to 300 people.

"Due to the increase of violence it was decided to deport people to other borders, but still, so far this year we have had a considerable number of migrants," said Blanca Rivera, in charge of the Casa del Migrante.

The organization receives funds from the Catholic Dioceses as well as donations from other institutions.

Regarding the possibility of going back to the previous trends in which migrants crossed through big cities such as Tijuana and Juárez, Rubio said it would depend more on the U.S. surveillance measures.

"The migrants, the smugglers and the coyotes are in constant search of the places where the possibility of being apprehended is less, not where the possibility of risk is higher or lower," he said. "It seems then that the crossing point choice has more to do with the idea of getting to the place rather than with security conditions."

Lourdes Cardenas may be reached at; 546-6249