Editor’s Note: On April 8, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said that March 2021 was the highest number of southwest border encounters since 2001. This March 27 photo essay by Víctor Peña of El Faro chronicles one recent night in March at the southwest border.
Photos and Text by Víctor Peña
ROMA, Texas — The so-called migrant crisis being debated in Washington is being lived every night in Roma. With a population of around 10,000, Roma is a small city in Texas on the banks of the Rio Grande, just across from Miguel Alemán, of Tamaulipas, Mexico. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, over the month of March, the Border Patrol has detained, on average, almost 500 unaccompanied minors every day.
In the White House, President Joe Biden and his officials are confronting their first migrant crisis, pounding out a response directed at migrants: “The border is closed.” And yet, if you go out to the river any night in Roma you can see that the message hasn’t sunk in for the Central Americans. In just four hours on Friday, March 26, around 300 people crossed the Rio Grande and set off along the dirt roads to Roma, where they were detained by Border Patrol.
The majority of them were Hondurans, then Guatemalans and Mexicans, with a few Salvadorans as well. Many families traveled with their children, and 20 minors said that they had crossed Mexico by themselves. A few of the migrants said that the increase in people migrating is due to the departure of Donald Trump. With his hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric, his dismantling of the asylum system, and the implementation of Title 42 —a public health measure that authorized the nearly immediate expulsion of any border crosser— Trump had finally succeeded in lowering the number of apprehensions.
With the arrival of Biden, a few doors were opened to asylum seekers, which could be partly why thousands of Central Americans decided that now was the moment to head north. Recently, Biden tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead diplomatic efforts to stem migration from the region. Meanwhile, every night, desperate Central Americans continue to cross the river and head into the hills towards Roma, hoping, somehow, to improve their lives.
This article was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF). Translated by Roman Gressier and John Washington.
El Faro English is a project from the award-winning Central American media outlet, El Faro, which focuses on hard-hitting investigations, culture, and analysis from Central America and beyond. In addition to translating reporting from El Faro, we publish original investigations and opinion articles and translate stories from partner media outlets throughout the region about migration, politics, culture, historical memory, violence and more from Central American communities in the region, Mexico, Europe, and the United States. Twitter: @elfaroenglish.
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