VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico (AP) — “Here, once more.” Yeneska García’s face crumbled as she stated it, and he or she pressed her head into…

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico (AP) — “Here, once more.”

Yeneska García’s face crumbled as she stated it, and he or she pressed her head into her fingers.

Since fleeing crisis in Venezuela in January, the 23-year-old had trekked via the Darien Gap jungle dividing Colombia and Panama, narrowly survived being kidnapped by a Mexican cartel and waited months for an asylum appointment with the United States that by no means got here. She lastly crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in May, solely to have American authorities expel her.

Now she was again in southern Mexico, after Mexican immigration bused her to sweltering Villahermosa and dropped her on the road.

“I’d somewhat cross the Darien Gap 10,000 occasions than cross Mexico,” García stated, sitting in a migrant shelter.

She clutched a crinkled Ziploc bag that held her Venezuelan ID, an inhaler and an apple — her few remaining possessions.

Driven by mounting strain from the U.S. to dam thousands and thousands of susceptible folks headed north, however missing the funds to deport them, Mexican authorities are using a easy however harsh tactic: carrying migrants out till they provide up.

That means migrants are churning in limbo right here as authorities spherical them up throughout the nation and dump them within the southern Mexican cities of Villahermosa and Tapachula. Some have been punted again as many as six occasions.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated Monday that the coverage protects migrants.

“We care loads … about conserving migrants within the southeast as a result of crossing to the north could be very dangerous,” López Obrador stated, responding to a query from The Associated Press throughout his day by day briefing.

But the strikes have compelled migrants, together with pregnant ladies and kids, into much more precarious conditions. That’s more likely to worsen below President Joe Biden’s new asylum restrictions, analysts say.

Mexico’s actions clarify a plunge in arrivals to the U.S.-Mexico border, which dropped 40% from an all-time excessive in December and endured via the spring. That coincided with a rise in migrants in Mexico with out authorized permission, information from the nation’s immigration company reveals. U.S. officers principally credit score Mexican vigilance round rail yards and freeway checkpoints.

“Mexico is the wall,” stated Josue Martínez, a psychologist at Villahermosa’s solely migrant shelter, Peace Oasis of the Holy Spirit Amparito, which was was bracing for a crush of individuals below Biden’s measure to halt asylum processing when U.S. officers deem that the southern border is overwhelmed.

The small shelter has been scrambling since Mexico’s authorities started pushing folks again two years in the past. Last month, it housed 528 folks, up from 85 in May 2022.

“What will we do when much more folks arrive?” Martínez stated. “Every time the United States does one thing to strengthen the northern border, we mechanically know tons of individuals are coming to Villahermosa.”

Migrants right here stroll or take buses north towards Mexico City, the place they’ll request an appointment to seek asylum over U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s app, CBP One. But most by no means make it far sufficient north for the app’s location requirement.

Checkpoints dot southern Mexican highways. Armed troopers pull migrants off buses and spherical up these strolling alongside roads and in surrounding mountains. Of two dozen migrants interviewed by the AP, all stated they have been extorted by legislation enforcement or Mexican migration officers to proceed on their journeys. After dispensing hefty sums two or thrice, households had nothing. They have been then bused again south, the place most are left on the streets.

Mexican authorities check with the short-term detentions as “humanitarian rescues.”

But Venezuelan Keilly Bolaños say there’s nothing human about them. She and her 4 kids have been despatched to southern Mexico six occasions. The 25-year-old single mom desires asylum so her 4-year-old daughter can get remedy for leukemia, unavailable to her in Venezuela.

Days earlier, she was captured within the northern state of Chihuahua, the place she stated members of the army beat her in entrance of her crying kids, then loaded them onto a bus for the two-day journey to Villahermosa.

“How are you able to run when you will have 4 kids? You can’t,” Bolaños stated.

The household slept on cardboard packing containers alongside different migrants outdoors Villahermosa’s bus terminal. Bruises nonetheless lined Bolaños’ legs. Yet she deliberate to take a seventh swing at heading north. She has nowhere else to go.

“I do know that every one this struggling can be price it some day,” she added.

Mexico’s techniques seem like a approach to appease the U.S., which has pressured Latin American nations to assist sluggish migration whereas failing to overtake its personal immigration system that almost all Americans agree is damaged. Panama’s incoming president has promised to block passage through the Darien Gap, whereas Biden eased criticisms of El Salvador’s president after he reduced migration.

When Biden introduced his new restrictions final week, he stated he “drastically” minimize migration to the border “because of the association that I’ve reached with President (López) Obrador.” He stated he additionally deliberate to work with incoming President Claudia Sheinbaum on border points.

But Michael Shifter, a senior fellow on the Inter-American Dialogue, stated such measures are solely a short-term answer that don’t deal with root causes of migration.

“They say it is a regional problem all of us should face collectively, which is true,” Shifter stated. “The drawback is: if the U.S. can’t get its personal home so as, that sends a sign to different governments asking: ‘Why ought to we work with them if the U.S. itself is just not able to coping with the problem?’”

Some asylum seekers stated they have been prepared to surrender on their “American dream,” however can’t depart as a result of they’re minimize off from their consulate or are out of cash.

After being taken off of a bus, one group of migrants begged authorities to assist them get again to Venezuela shortly earlier than being despatched again south.

“We simply wish to go to the embassy in Mexico City. To return to Venezuela,” 30-year-old Fabiana Bellizar informed officers, after being returned from northern Mexico a day earlier. “We don’t wish to be right here anymore.”

They began touring the identical route the following morning.

Others stated they’d attempt to discover work and a spot to sleep within the metropolis earlier than persevering with on.

López Obrador on Monday stated work is obtainable to migrants within the south, however the few fortunate folks face precarious circumstances. One migrant was paid $25 a day for 12 hours of labor below the beating solar on a mango farm. Another stated employers tried to coerce her into intercourse work.

Others are compelled to take extra harmful routes, and into the arms of mafias seeking to kidnap migrants.

At the primary signal of flashing lights, 27-year-old Honduran Alexander Amador dove behind a tree, scrambling for canopy within the shadows cloaking the street between the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco.

Amador and his two journey companions had been strolling for 10 hours, working into the jungle to flee authorities attempting to scoop them up alongside the freeway. After being returned twice to southern Mexico whereas touring by bus, it was the one factor the Hondurans might consider to proceed onward.

But they have been frightened, each of Mexican legislation enforcement and cartels. In the previous yr, safety in southern Mexican states resembling Tabasco and Chiapas has spiraled as cartels battle for control over profitable migrant routes.

“Here, you’ll be able to’t belief anybody. Everything is a hazard to you,” Amador stated, swinging his backpack over his shoulder and strolling into the darkness.


Associated Press journalist María Verza in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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