US restarts asylum appointments at violent Mexican border town

The U.S. government is restarting asylum appointments at a dangerous Mexican border town where concerns over the kidnapping and extortion of migrants had prompted U.S. officials to suspend the scheduling of appointments just days earlier.

The reversal comes after more than 1,500 asylum seekers flocked to Mexico’s Nuevo Laredo in recent days, sleeping in a plaza near the international bridge, after word spread that the U.S. had begun to accept migrants here without asylum appointments.

“First, I arrived in Matamoros. I lived there for almost a month. Because work is scarce and conditions are not favorable, an opportunity arose for us to be processed (the asylum applications) a little faster in Nuevo Laredo. So we took the risk of coming here,” said Eider Medina, a Venezuelan migrant.

“There are approximately 1,500 to 1,700 people who arrived on Saturday. Immediately, by order of the mayor’s office, we helped them by installing portable toilets and tarpaulins. Yesterday, the health brigade started medical check-ups. We are vaccinating them and giving them preventive medicines and vitamins. We have also treated some cases of severe dehydration and respiratory problems due to the change in climate,” said Nuevo Laredo Health Coordinator Aimee Garcia.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said its CBP One mobile app, which officials have urged migrants to use since COVID-era restrictions called Title 42 expired in May, will offer appointments again beginning Wednesday (June 28).

This comes less than two weeks after CBP had shut down the system for asylum appointments at Laredo – the Texas city opposite Nuevo Laredo – once U.S. officials learned criminals were forcing migrants to pay $500 each to reach the bridge to attend their appointments.