EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Migrant shelters in Juarez, Mexico, were still at near capacity just last week. New groups from South and Central America arrived to the city daily in buses, vans and riding atop cargo trains.
But on Friday, some of the largest private and government-run facilities were half empty. Administrators attributed that to social media rumors about a new “express” asylum process in the United States. In the space of three days, thousands of people left the shelters, hotels, rented rooms in private homes and city parks and sidewalks and headed for the border wall in hopes of securing asylum.
“Sometimes those rumors find echo because official information is not very appealing to them,” said Santiago Gonzalez, head of Juarez’s Human Rights Office. “People on the move don’t like to hear about passports and visas. When an alternate (source) tells them something else, they tend to believe it.”
The Human Rights Office supervises the Kiki Romero municipal shelter in Central Juarez. The shelter earlier this month was at more than 70% capacity. People started leaving on Sunday when the social media rumors spread and by Friday the shelter was only at 40% capacity.
At Good Samaritan, the Rev. Juan Fierro has seen a similar trend. He said all the Venezuelan families left along with several Central Americans. The shelter near the mountains of Juarez, which recently expanded to a building across the street due to continued migrant arrivals, is now at 30% capacity.
Despite the departures, the caretakers at both shelters expect migrants to keep coming to the border. This is likely to intensify as the stated May 11 termination of Title 42 public health expulsions approaches.
“This is not going to end. We will see more people coming,” Gonzalez said. He urged newcomers to not shun the shelters. This is important because out on the streets they can easily become targets of smugglers, criminals and even merchants who will sell them basic goods at inflated prices.
(Juarez photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report.)