Train horns could be heard in the background as 5,000 Venezuelan migrants, most traveling from the central Mexican city of Irapuato, were stranded at the United States-Mexican border. There were so many migrants piling on the box cars that the companies halted for fear there would be fatalities.
Ferromex, the firm that manages the freight trains, reported that there were “half a dozen regrettable examples of injury or deaths” in just a few days due to the large number of migrants hitching rides on the trains.
At a time of increased migration, the closures have put families like Mayela Villegas and her six children in a difficult position of uncertainty. Stopping the trains highlights the unprecedented numbers of individuals traveling across the Americas for a better life in the United States and the challenge this presents to governments across the region.
A state of emergency was declared in Eagle Pass, Texas after several thousand migrants flooded the town over a few days. At the border with Mexico, the United States Border Patrol made 181,509 arrests in August, up 37% from July. This is unchanged from August 2022 and significantly down from the record high of more than 220,000 in December.
The economic crisis and political and social unrest in many of the countries from which people are fleeing have caused migration levels to rise substantially over the past few years.
Most migrants use the Darien Gap, a treacherous passage between Colombia and Panama that takes several days to cross. The number of people using the crossing has skyrocketed; it is expected to reach around 500,000 this year.
Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica have all appealed to the international community for assistance as their governments grapple with what to do.
Asylum applicants now have to register with CBP One, an app, after the Biden administration pressured Mexico and Central American governments to limit migrant flows.
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced that it would extend TPS to an additional 450,000 Venezuelans currently living in the nation.