JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The governor of Chihuahua is urging the Mexican government to control migrant flows at the southern border to ease a humanitarian and public safety crisis in Juarez.
Visiting Juarez on Tuesday, Gov. Maru Campos said more than 35,000 migrants are now camped in the city, waiting for a chance to cross into the United States. City officials say the migrants are living in abandoned buildings, renting rooms at low-cost hotels and floor space in people’s homes, crowded shelters and on streets and parks.
“The migrant issue in Juarez has turned into a serious crisis, and according to the numbers we are seeing and the events we are witnessing, it will become even worse,” Campos said during a news conference at the state building here.
She blamed the crisis on a federal government she says has no clear policy on migration and has failed to take action even as the situation continues to break down. “Months back, we asked the federal government to take control of migrant flows at the southern border of our country,” Campos said. “They have not done so as of today.”
The border governor said such a lack of action places the burden on the shoulders of local governments. That’s an unsustainable situation “as more migrants continue to come every day,” she said.
Campos’ comments came at the end of a meeting with Juarez city and Mexican federal officials that was supposed to bring about a coordinated strategy to deal with the crisis. However, with federal officials dealing with the fallout of a fire at a detention center that killed 40 migrants, they failed to commit to a hardline approach now.
Campos said the migrant population in Juarez is now greater than that of 55 of the state’s 67 municipalities.
“This is very serious, with thousands of desperate people stranded without resources for their most basic needs – health, a roof over their heads, food or even water – we demand the federal government to assume its responsibility and define its migration policies so that we can take coordinated action and protect the people that we are sworn to protect, the people of Juarez,” she said.
Campos said the crisis might lead to another tragedy such as the fatal fire or a “societal explosion” of people fed up with the crisis. “I urge the federal government to stop the migrant flow, now,” the governor said.
Rosana Diaz, a member of the Mexican congress who belongs to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s MORENA Party, on Wednesday criticized Campos’ comments. She said it was easier for the border governor to ask the federal government to violate migrants’ rights than to provide for them.
“I think Gov. Campos is totally unaware of the universal right to migrate. Thousands of families, men and women leave their countries in search of a better life or just survival,” Diaz said. “It is easy for her, from a position of privilege, to assume a stance that violates the human rights of migrants.”
Meantime, Chihuahua state police Chief Gilberto Loya warned that Juarez “is barely seeing the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to migration. He noted migrants continue to arrive on top of trains and through other means daily.
Loya spoke of an incident earlier this week in which groups of migrants fought inside abandoned buildings in Downtown Juarez and others have become involved in altercations with residents.
“Being a migrant does not exempt you from observing the law,” Loya said.
Carlos Manuel Salas, the state’s deputy attorney general in Juarez, said he is concerned about migrants falling prey to smugglers. He said smugglers are already recruiting some migrants are “polleros” or smugglers themselves.
“We have intelligence that they are recruiting minors for this type of activity. When they are detained in the United States, they pretend they are just migrants themselves,” Salas said.