JUAREZ, Mexico (KTSM) — Disappointed, hungry and disoriented, Central Americans recently deported from the United States attest to the overcrowding and stress at El Paso detention facilities — outlined in a recent report from the Office of the Inspector General.
The OIG report found standing-room-only conditions at the Paso del Norte Processing Center in El Paso, which has a maximum capacity of 125 immigrants. During surprise visits on May 7 and 8, the agency found 750 and 900 immigrants, respectively.
The OIG also said that Border Patrol managers are concerned about health and safety, not only for the detainees but also for the agents guarding them.
The Department of Homeland Security responded to the report saying “our immigration system is not equipped to accommodate a migration pattern like the one we are experiencing now.”
The conditions are similar at the CBP’s Ysleta Port of Entry facility, according to a source on the American side of the border with knowledge of the facility who spoke to KTSM.
The Ysleta station has been over capacity for more than six months. Its maximum capacity is 33 and recently there have been as many as 370 migrants.
Migrants have no room or space to sleep, but they do get three meals a day, which usually consists of oatmeal for breakfast, hot pockets for lunch and ramen noodles for dinner every day.
About a week ago the migrants were finally able to shower since the station does not have a shower facility. Some have been in custody for more than 30 days without a shower, the source told KTSM.
DEPORTED MIGRANTS ECHO CONCERNS
“It is horrible. They hardly feed you and they keep you in a room with 15 other people all day. When they moved us to the tents outside, you have to sleep in a single blanket wrapped like a burrito,” said Heidi, a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman returned to Mexico on Friday.
Disheveled and complaining about not being able to bathe during her seven-day stay at the detention facility, the woman said she never got to see an immigration judge nor was she fed a full meal.
“They gave me watery oatmeal and an Oreo cookie for breakfast, instant soup for lunch and a burrito and a cookie for dinner,” said Heidi, who was interviewed at Juarez’s Migrant Services Center and declined to give her last name.
Heidi said she kept dozing off in daytime because the guards at the detention center insisted on reading a list of detainees in each cell or office three times during the night.
“They were rude to us. They don’t want us there. They seem angry all the time. I never imagined it would be like this. This is the first time I come here, and it will be the last,” said the woman who left Guatemala City to flee an abusive husband.
On Friday, Heidi was trying to get a hold of her cousin in Juarez, to convince her to go back to Guatemala with her.
Earlier, at a park in front of the Downtown Juarez Cathedral, Javier Rodriguez tried to raise money from passers-by to purchase bus tickets to Chiapas, Mexico, then his native Honduras.
Rodriguez said he was deported from the United States after 10 days in an El Paso detention facility.
“They did not feed us well. All they gave us was sandwiches and (snacks). It was very bad there,” said the 21-year-old from Colon Province, who joined a migrant caravan in Honduras with the hope of getting asylum and a work visa in the United States.
Rodriguez said he ended up in Mexico because he got on a bus at the detention center that he thought would take him to an immigrant shelter. Instead, he wound up on the international bridge and then in Juarez. He said he doesn’t remember if he signed a consent form or not.
“I don’t care anymore. I’m leaving,” he said. The previous night he slept in a bench at the park because he had nowhere else to go, he said.
Word of the overcrowded conditions and the deportations have reached Central American migrants who barely arrived in Juarez. Some of them, like 22-year-old Ajax Samir, of Choloma, Honduras, decided not to cross into the United States.
“I see people being deported every day. They tell me it’s very hard to get asylum. They tell me they treat them very badly. They told me (U.S. officials) were just going to send me back if I turned myself in,” he said.
Samir said he left Choloma because of the crime and lack of jobs. According to Honduras press reports, Choloma last year averaged one murder per day and police were fighting at least a dozen organized street gangs.
For now, Samir is trying to make a living in Juarez to pay for room and lodging for himself and his wife, who made the trip with him. He’s selling sodas and candy out of a shopping cart at the park in front of the cathedral, while he ponders his next move.