BROWNSVILLE — More than 200 migrants gathered Thursday to block the traffic at midpoint of both the Gateway and B&M International Bridges to demand answers on their asylum cases.
The Gateway International Bridge, also known as Puente Nuevo, remained closed from around 1:30 a.m. in both directions until 4 p.m. Thursday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the B&M International Bridge, also known as Puente Viejo, resumed traffic at about 3:45 a.m. Thursday.
CBP responded with security protocols and closed the gates that divide the Mexican and American sides of the bridge.
“CBP has responded and traffic at B&M International Bridge resumed at about 3:45 a.m.” CBP said in a statement sent to The Brownsville Herald. “Those MPP (Migrant Protection Protocol) participants with immigration court hearings this morning are being rescheduled for a later date. CBP continues to monitor the situation and will provide updates.”
More than 42,000 migrants are forced to remain in Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocol, the Associated Press reported. It is unknown how many are in Matamoros, but Team Brownsville feeds more than 500 every day and Jodi Goodwin, a local attorney who helps migrants with their asylum cases, and her team help more than 800.
Andrea Morris Rudnik, cofounder of Team Brownsville, said there were more than 2,000 people waiting in Matamoros. Team Brownsville provides meals and other needed items such as medicine, diapers and wipes to the asylum seekers. They also recently helped with shower facilities.
“Some people have been living in the Plaza area since May … a lot of months, and some have even been there longer if they got here earlier and they didn’t get to cross the bridge that fast. It used to be two months that you would wait to request asylum,” said Rudnik. “These people have been living in a situation where there is no running water, most of the times there have been no bathrooms, they’ve gone through MPP coming and that brought a lot of changes, too. For a period of time, the Mexican National Guard had a presence there and they did not allow anyone to go up the stairs (that lead to the river). For many people, the river was the place where they were bathing, washing clothes. … Also just the daily heat, they’re out there with little to no shade.”
Matamoros Mayor Mario Lopez tried to reach an agreement with the migrants at the bridge and said he understands how they are feeling and the conditions they have been living in for months, live videos from observers at the bridge show.
“I understand how you feel, you’ve been here for months and we are doing everything we can but you have to understand that we are limited, as Mexican officials, because the ones who authorize political asylum are the American authorities,” Lopez said to the migrants. “We are just part of the chain … I have offered several times to take you to the Alberca Chavez (public pool) and to the Mundo Nuevo (Matamoros Event Center), the places are there to accommodate you better.”
Lopez added he will add more showers and bathrooms to accommodate them better at the bridge.
Of the more than 2,000 migrants waiting in Matamoros, less than 300 participated in the bridge blockage. RHP, 52, an asylum seeker from Cuba who wished to remain anonymous for protection, said in an interview last week that there have been several times when other asylum seekers living at the bridge invited him to start blocking the bridge and demand answers to the American agents.
“They’ve told me several times that we should block the bridge and that they would put their children at the front, that way the agents don’t do anything to them. But I always say no because I want to do everything legal and I don’t want to have that to affect me in my asylum case,” he said.
RHP has been waiting at the bridge more than four months. He was an attorney in Cuba and had to leave because the government threatened to kill him. One of his sons is already in the United States with asylum status.
“Nobody wants to leave their home just because they feel like it,” he said. “We leave our homes because there is a big problem. If there were no problems back home there would be no need for us to be here, sacrificing ourselves, living on the streets, getting wet and risking our children to get sick. If things would change back home, I would go back.”