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No way out – tales from the border

Down a bumpy neighborhood road in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico – a crime-ridden city in the state of Chihuahua with more than 1 million people – sits a migrant shelter for women who’ve been trapped in Mexico under the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Under this policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have been illegally sending certain asylum-seekers back to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings. When returned to Mexico, migrants generally find shelter in flimsy tents or are forced to sleep on the streets of overcrowded and unsafe border towns like Juárez, which lies across the bridge from El Paso, Texas.                 

Here, the few women who’ve found shelter in a house hidden from the outside world consider themselves lucky. Tens of thousands of migrants have not found safe or stable housing. Unlike most asylum-seekers sent back to Mexico, these women have a roof over their heads. There’s room to sleep. They’ve found safety in a shelter run by another woman who cares for and feeds them and their children. They thank God for these small blessings.     

But the blessings do little to undo the impact the harsh policy has on their lives.

Many of the women whose stories are told here feel stuck, afraid and claustrophobic. They are unable to leave the shelter due to kidnappings, theft and other dangers that await them on the streets of Juárez. Beyond that, the women are haunted by the tragedies that forced them to flee their home countries. Their chilling tales speak of further horrors from their journeys to the southern border of the United States – journeys they bravely traveled to protect their children and themselves by seeking asylum. Despite all they have gone through, many of the women may not have access to asylum in the United States due to more recent policies implemented by the Trump administration.

But for now, as they remain in Mexico and wait, it appears they have no way out of Juárez.  

Photo by Paul Ratje/AFP/Getty Images