JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The mayor of Juarez says he will not tolerate further civil disobedience from thousands of migrants frustrated by not being allowed the enter the United States.
Some 600 migrants converged last week around a Downtown hotel where Mexican immigration officers attempted to check for visas. On Sunday, 1,200 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, rushed the Paso del Norte International Bridge and tried to tear out barricades impeding their access to El Paso, Texas. Juarez authorities said somebody told the migrants the U.S. would let them in on Sunday.
“They have to understand they must observe the law. They’re even hurting themselves with these types of actions,” Juarez Mayor Cruz Perez Cuellar said on Monday. “We must say that our patience is running out.”
Perez Cuellar said the mass crossing attempt stranded El Paso residents trying to return home and Juarez residents trying to come back from the U.S. He said merchants along tourist strips like Juarez Avenue, Americas and Lincoln lost money on what should have been one of their busiest days.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Sunday said it carried out “port hardening” measures and that traffic flows were interrupted for hours at the Paso del Norte and two other ports of entry in El Paso.
Video showed the migrants breaking the crossing arm at a toll collection booth, shoving past a handful of Mexican National Guardsmen, going up to the middle of the bridge and pulling out a barbwire barrier.
“That was an action that benefits no one — not the migrants, not the people of Juarez and El Paso, nor the authorities at any level of government,” the mayor said. “It was a senseless, irrational act.”
Juarez Police Chief Cesar Omar Muñoz said his officers on Monday were monitoring all border crossings into El Paso to prevent further bridge takeovers. He said police on Sunday tried to persuade the migrants not to rush the Paso del Norte bridge, but they would not listen.
“The migrants did not heed the information we were providing because they were being given false information elsewhere. They were convinced they would be let into the United States,” Muñoz said. “It was impossible to have a dialogue with them.”
It was impossible to have a dialogue with them.”Juarez Police Chief Cesar Omar Muñoz
The police chief said efforts to get migrants off the streets have also stalled. “We have been talking with them for day. Juarez residents are being affected by that, particularly women driving alone. They feel intimidated,” Muñoz said. “We will respect their human rights, but they should not affect the rights of Juarez and El Paso residents.”
Juarez officials said there’s no reason for the Venezuelans to be on the streets — migrant shelters are only 75 percent full and temporary jobs have been offered to those willing to work.
But Perez Cuellar said some migrants say they make more money begging or selling trinkets on the streets than they would at a factory.
The mayor and the police chief said they will make sure migrants who break the law are prosecuted.
“We are at a crossroads. This is a crucial moment to bring this to a stop because they can hurt the city’s economy and thousands of El Paso, Juarez, Las Cruces (New Mexico) residents, as it happened on Sunday,” Perez Cuellar said. “There is no justification for bothering people at street intersections, there is no justification for hurting the city’s economy. That is unacceptable.”
Alicia Martinez Flores, a Juarez resident, said she was unable to cross into El Paso for work on Sunday because of the port of entry crossing.
The Venezuelans “have been offered jobs in factories. Why don’t they go to work? They don’t want to work. What is it that they want then? If they go to the other side, it will be the same thing. Will the government over there provide for them?” Martinez said.
She said she’s seen migrants from other parts of the world come to Juarez and cause no problems. The Venezuelans “are very conflictive. You cannot tell them anything because they get upset. When the Cubans arrived here, they were peaceful, they arrived and they started to work,” she said. “People are tired. We would like to help everyone, but we cannot.”