Texas Baptist pastor builds migrant shelters along “border highway” in Mexico

PALOMAS, Mexico (Border Report) – A government truck pulls up in front of a fenced building. Four young men and a woman come out and are escorted inside by a Mexican immigration officer.

The lawyer quickly leaves the Tierra de Oro refuge and leaves the migrants in the care of Rosalio Sosa. The El Paso, Texas-based Baptist pastor with deep family and cultural ties to Mexico, welcomes migrants – Mixtec Indians from the state of Guerrero. He strikes up an informal conversation while his assistant registers their arrival.

“Where are you from? Don’t worry, I’m just curious. Are you Mixtec? I have traveled to Mixtec lands in the past,” he says. All five are wearing military style boots or worker and woman is wearing camouflage pants.

Mexican police picked up the migrants near Agua Prieta, a Mexican border town across from Douglas, Arizona. This is an area where the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department says the Sinaloa Cartel often dresses migrants in fatigues so they can avoid being arrested when they cross the border illegally.

Mexican police dropped off a group of migrants at the Tierra de Oro shelter after they were picked up near Agua Prieta, Sonora. The migrants wore military-style boots and camouflage, something the cartels force migrants to wear so they could be less easily detected. (Julian Resendiz / Border Report)

The conversation at the shelter remains jovial, but the message is firm.

“Are you saying your relatives are coming?” Sosa asks a member of the group. “Tell me the truth. […] If they’re traffickers, we won’t let them in. We have cameras everywhere. We don’t want traffickers here.

The pastor worries the young men and the woman does not know what they are getting into. Just a few days ago, he took in a woman with a small child who had been abandoned in the desert by smugglers. There is also always the risk of kidnapping.

“Sometimes the trafficker is afraid to invade the territory of the other cartel, so he gives up (the migrants). It doesn’t matter if they have children or if they are families, ”he says.

The desire to protect vulnerable migrants from cartels prompted Sosa to present a plan to government officials and nonprofits on both sides of the border to build a series of shelters along Mexico’s Federal Highway 2. C ‘ is a stretch of asphalt running from Nogales to Agua Prieta. , Sonora, then Palomas and Ascencion to Chihuahua.

Reverend Rosalio Sosa talks about his plan to build a series of migrant shelters along Mexico’s “border route” between Sonora and Chihuahua. (Julian Resendiz / Border Report)

“I’m very excited because there are a lot of shelters that we would like to open along the border, especially on the Mexican side because of the traffickers and these situations,” he said. “We have a few shelters but we need more to avoid chaos. Imagine 300 or 500 people arriving in these towns of just over 4000 inhabitants. They will be overwhelmed, and we don’t want that.

Filling a void for vulnerable populations in the desert of northern Mexico

The Palomas Refuge is home to dozens of families and single adults deported from the United States under Title 42 Public Health Order, as well as groups encountered by Mexican immigration before attempting an unauthorized crossing to the north. The shelter is also starting to see asylum seekers wanting information about what the Migrant Protection Protocols program is and who is entitled to it.

“We haven’t been (to the United States) yet. We (the shelter) want to check my papers. I have papers to prove what I’m saying, ”said Antonio CN, who fled Guerrero with his wife, two sons and daughter-in-law. Antonio said criminals in his state – which has become a battleground between Jalisco’s new generation cartel and local criminal gangs – threatened and even shot him, so he left.

The MPP program specifically excludes Mexican nationals, who may have other avenues to seek asylum.

Sosa says it’s mostly Mexicans coming north right now to attempt a crossing to the United States, but there are plenty of Central Americans and citizens of other countries.

The refuge offers meals, a warm place to sleep in the winter, and the security of cinder block walls and chain link fence. Here, Mexican children play soccer and share toys with others from Guatemala and beyond. Here, the fathers who uprooted their families from struggling communities hear the facts about what is really happening at the border before deciding whether to continue; others are just taking a breather after taking a ride in a US Border Patrol vehicle and ending up in Mexico.

Sosa said he had already managed to open a shelter in Ascencion – although he concedes it is only a room with two cots at the moment – and met with representatives last week. government in Sonora to discuss the creation of one or more shelters there.

“We’re talking about Agua Prieta and maybe San Luis Rio Colorado. Right now, migrants are being deported from Arizona because there is nothing in between, ”he said.

Ivonne De La Hoya, mayor of Ascencion, said she had provided assistance to the Tierra de Oro shelter, but stressed that hers was not a wealthy community.

Ascencion Mayor Ivonne De La Hoya shakes hands with migrants at the shelter in Palomas, Mexico. (Julian Resendiz / Border Report)

“We have around 5,000 migrants who clearly need food, electricity, garbage collection and accommodation,” she said. “We hope this situation will be noticed so that we can get more resources (state and federal).”

Sosa supports migrant shelters with donations from its parishioners and “good-hearted people” on both sides of the border. To inquire about the shelter project, you can email him at [email protected] or call his church in El Paso at (915) 892-3332.

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