1st busloads of asylum seekers detained in Arizona arrive in El Paso, are sent across border to wait in Mexico

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Juarez officials hope move is temporary, as migrant shelters south of border are near capacity

Immigrants listen as American activists hold an educational session on U.S. political asylum, while at an immigrant shelter on May 09, 2019 in Sonoyta, Mexico. The number of families, mostly from Central America, seeking asylum in the U.S. has soared in 2019, despite anti-immigrant rhetoric from President Trump. The U.S. government has been pressuring humanitarian organizations who aid undocumented immigrants in borderland regions, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents have at times detained immigrant rights activists. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The U.S. government has begun sending to Juarez, Mexico, asylum seekers who surrendered to border agents in Arizona.

The first busloads of migrants placed by the United States in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program arrived in El Paso from Tucson last week, and so far 63 have been welcomed in Juarez, said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Population Council, which runs the city’s the Migrant Assistance Center.

“We understand this is a temporary situation while (the MPP program) is set up in Arizona,” Valenzuela said. “We are taking the migrants to the Leona Vicario federal shelter, initially, then to the various (church-run) shelters in the city.”

Valenzuela said he didn’t know how many asylum seekers — mostly from Central America — would be coming from Arizona. He also responded to Mexican news reports quoting some of the shelter operators saying their facilities are near capacity, underfunded and struggling to take in any more migrants. Last week, a Juarez newspaper quoted the head of the largest church-run shelter in the city as saying “We cannot receive more returnees.”

But Valenzuela said, “We have the will to serve these migrants and, barring a major emergency, we have room to accommodate them. So far, we have been able to make do.”

Because of the United States’ MPP policy — also known as Return to Mexico — Juarez has thousands of Central Americans, Cubans and other foreigners in its shelters or on the streets. Recently, it also has had to deal with the arrival of more than 800 families fleeing the drug wars in West-Central Mexico. That’s in addition to the normal flow of Mexicans deported by the United States through the El Paso port of entry.

CBP officials in El Paso last week referred all questions about the MPP program to the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C.

Border Report on Wednesday reached out to DHS seeking information on the transfer of migrants from Arizona to Texas. As of Monday, a DHS spokesperson had not replied.

The City of Juarez has spent more than $500,000 to care for migrants since the Central American caravans began arriving in October of last year. The State of Chihuahua has also provided funding and food to the shelters, and the federal government operates a shelter and processing center in Central Juarez.

Valenzuela said the new arrivals would receive medical screenings. Earlier this fall, Chihuahua state authorities provided more than 1,000 flu shots to migrants in the MPP program, mostly children.

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