A large number of migrants trying to find jobs in the United States is straining the capacity of communities along the migrant route to properly protect the rights of migrants.
Washington's mishandling of the immigration influx on its southern border is generating a human rights crisis for regional communities. With no way to legally cross into the U.S., thousands of migrants continue to live in poor conditions in Mexico.
With already vulnerable migrant systems and weak economies, towns such as Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo in the state of Tamaulipas, are struggling to accommodate the surging undocumented migrants refused or expelled by the United States, leaving those asylum seekers increasingly exposed to unsafe, unsanitary and unsustainable conditions.
To solve the pressing border crisis, experts said, the U.S. government should look beyond the border, take coherent immigration policies and work coordinately with other countries to tackle the roots, especially in a time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In all, about 9,000 migrants in Reynosa alone are currently living in shelters specially set up for them, or in makeshift settlements scattered around the city, or simply on the streets, Mayor Carlos Pena said.
Senda de Vida, located less than 50 meters from the border river Rio Grande, was designed to shelter 600 people. However, due to the waves of Central American migrants heading north and being waylaid by legal procedures, it is critically overcrowded.
Since the beginning of the fiscal year 2022, which began in October, U.S. immigration authorities have detained more than 1.2 million undocumented migrants, many of whom risked their lives to cross the Rio Grande, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Migrants who have been stranded in Reynosa seek to enter the United States legally, but procedures have been delayed or stalled due to Title 42, a Trump-era regulation that allows U.S. immigration authorities to ban migrants from entering the country and quickly expel them to Mexico or their home countries on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The measure has led to an overwhelming concentration of Central American migrants in Reynosa that "greatly impacts" the city's healthcare, economy and crime levels.
A large number of migrants trying to find jobs in the United States is straining the capacity of communities along the migrant route to properly protect the rights of migrants, according to Rodolfo Casillas, a professor and researcher at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences.
"Even if there is the greatest willingness to care for and respect human rights in the face of a growing mass of migrants, there is no infrastructure, no personnel, no programs, not enough of everything that should be there in order to do that," said Casillas.
He criticized the application of Title 42, especially in the absence of any real reform to promote safe and orderly migration, saying "new mechanisms are not being designed for the transit and reception of the growing flows of migrants."
Reynosa is by no means unique. Other Mexican border towns are grappling with the same issue, including Tijuana in the northwestern state of Baja California and Tapachula in the souther Chiapas.
Enrique Lucero, director of Attention to Migrants in Tijuana, an official agency responsible for migrant assistance, said that with the continuous arrival of migrants, the lack of coordination during the implementation of Title 42 has turned the border city into "a bottleneck."
An effective way to reduce the growing immigration and solve the root causes of the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is to make joint efforts to alleviate poverty and offer more opportunities for jobs and education.
Immigration laws cannot simply aim for containment, especially that a large population of migrants requires abundant resources, Casillas said, adding that the growth of migration flow is a significant sign of economic slowdown and other issues in their countries of birth.
Lucero agreed with the view, saying "major investment" is urgently needed to generate jobs in impoverished communities "to retain future migrants," but the United States "does not seem to be willing" to work with Mexico and other regional governments to make that happen.
Another solution would be to make it easier for temporary or seasonal workers to cross the border to meet the need for immigrant labor in the U.S. Recent immigration restrictions have led to a noticeable shortage of labor in sectors that traditionally employ immigrants, sparking a rise in prices not justified by inflation or supply chain problems.
The United States has 2 million fewer immigrants than it would have if the migratory flow had maintained its pre-pandemic volume. The U.S. government recently announced Title 42 will no longer be implemented as of May 23, but a federal court in Louisiana has filed a temporary restraining order on the decision to prolong its application indefinitely.