MATAMOROS, Mexico. – A sprawling camp in the Mexican city of Matamoros, within sight of the Texan border, has since 2019 been one of the most powerful reminders of the human toll of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep migrants out of the United States.
The camp has emptied out in recent days, after hundreds of asylum seekers living there were finally allowed to cross the border to press their claim to stay in the United States.
President Joe Biden last month rolled back the program – known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) – that had forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico.
Biden’s wife, Jill, visited the camp during last year’s presidential campaign to witness the difficult conditions first hand.
“If it hadn’t been for this camp, I don’t think they would have ever ended MPP,” said Honduran asylum seeker Oscar Borjas, one of the few remaining residents who has not yet been permitted to cross.
The last few people remaining in the camp were relocated to more secure locations identified by international aid groups where they could complete required paperwork, a US official told Reuters late on Saturday.
Like hundreds of asylum seekers expelled from the United States to this crime-ridden town, Borjas began sleeping near the foot of the international bridge across the Rio Grande out of fear and necessity.
But the migrants also intended to make a statement, he said: a visible reminder of the human toll of the MPP program. “We were there so that people would see us; see it wasn’t fair what they were doing to us.”
As of Friday, some 1,127 people in the MPP program across Mexico have been permitted to enter the United States since Biden rescinded the policy last month. More than half of those were from the Matamoros camp, according to the UN refugee agency. More than 700 enrolled in the program have been processed across the border in Brownsville, Texas, according to officials.
Once home to more than 3,000 people, the camp now stands deserted, as nearly all remaining residents left voluntarily for shelters over the weekend after receiving assurances from the United Nation’s refugee agency that their asylum cases would still be considered.
On Saturday, agents from Mexican migration agents began dismantling the camp’s ramshackle structures.
“I don’t know what I’ll do now. I can’t go back,” said Borjas, who said he faces the threat of murder in Honduras for supporting an opposition party. – Reuters