About 500 migrants who had waited for weeks for a chance to request asylum in the United States are giving up and leaving the muddy makeshift camp in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez.
Authorities said as of last week, there were still about 1,400 migrants, most of them from southwestern Mexico, putting up the tents and tarps in a park not far from the Rio Grande.
But on Thursday, Dec. 19, almost half of them left the camp due to the harsh cold weather and after receiving no responses from U.S. officials.
Among the 700 immigrants that remained, some were convinced to head to shelters or hotels to avoid cold nights, some made their way across the river, without any idea if they would succeed, and still, others chose to stay. Every night, they keep watching on the comings and goings on the bridge crossing the Rio Grande, to make sure new arrivals don’t jump the queue.
According to a survey recently led by several universities in northern Mexico, 60 percent of displaced people in camps wait their turn in tents, but more than a quarter are sleeping in the open air.
Many migrants say they were threatened by the cartels in Mexico to take their lands and money, and they come to the United States to escape.
Officials in Ciudad Juarez—once known as the “murder capital of the world”—are trying to be flexible about the influx of migrants.
“We understand that U.S. authorities administratively can’t process all of these requests,” said Enrique Valenzuela, who works for a Chihuahua State agency tasked with local population issues.
“Most of these people are alleged victims in some way,” he said. “They say that they either have been threatened for some reason—themselves or their families—or they have either lost a loved one or a neighbor,” he added. “We cannot impede their entrance and it would be wrong for us to do so.”