The Mexican government has closed a large warehouse near the Texas border that was being used to hold nearly 2,000 migrants who traveled as part of a caravan from Central America, a senior U.S. law enforcement official confirmed to the Washington Examiner Tuesday evening.
The old factory in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, sits just miles from the international border and had been used to house 1,900 migrants who arrived there on dozens of buses Feb. 4.
The group, mostly Guatemalan and Hondurans, made the trip to Piedras Negras with the intention of applying for asylum at U.S. ports of entry or, as many have done since the fall, illegally entering the U.S. and then claiming a fear of returning home to avoid deportation.
A Mexican official said last week his country was in the process of shuttering the shelter over worries it would incentivize additional caravans traveling to the region.
Mexico initially opened the warehouse to give the large group a safe place to stay and prevent group members from trying to illegally enter the United States. Mexican police guarded the fenced-in warehouse 24 hours a day. The Trump administration’s recent policy change forced asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims moved through the immigration courts, typically a months-long process.
At least twice over the past week, a few dozen people violently tried to break out of the heavily guarded facility and fought federal police. Those who fought police were immediately deported.
Faced with the idea of holding nearly 2,000 people for months and the high costs that would come with that operation, Mexico allowed the migrants to apply for visas to legally work and live in their country instead. As of last week, about 100 migrants had been approved for that type of visa, but about 1,200 others were still pending.
Those who do not get the long-term visas and who had not obtained a document at Mexico’s southern border, which gave them temporary legal permission to be in the country for 30 days, were sent back to their home countries.
The Trump administration flooded Eagle Pass with hundreds of law enforcement personnel. More than 100 U.S. police vehicles have lined a one-mile stretch of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, every day.
The massive “show of force” — as Border Patrol called it — was meant to deter Central Americans from illegally entering the country, after large groups attempted in San Diego, Calif., last November and again on New Year’s Eve.