Juárez Mayor Armando Cabada discussed the challenges his border city faces, including violence and an influx of migrants, during a visit Wednesday to El Paso.
Cabada, a former television news anchor who ran as an independent and was re-elected last year, was the guest speaker at the El Paso Central Business Association’s monthly luncheon in the DoubleTree hotel’s ballroom in Downtown.
Here are some topics Cabada spoke about to El Paso business, civic and government leaders and interviews with the news media:
Migrant influx in Juárez
Over the past year, thousands of migrants from Central America, Cuba and other countries have arrived in Juárez waiting to cross the border into the United States.
“It’s a problem that, clearly, we didn’t want, we didn’t seek and didn’t ask for,” Cabada said in Spanish.
Since January, the Juárez city government has spent about 6 million pesos –about $300,000 — in sheltering and assisting migrants, Cabada said.
The city has 30 employees and 15 police officers assigned to protect and assist migrants and deal with migrant-related issues, the mayor said.
“I have been very clear and firm,” Cabada said. “I will not allow, I will not tolerate any type of disorder in the city. If they are here, they have to respect our laws and our rules.”
Migrants should be treated humanely, Cabada emphasized, adding that border cities face the brunt of policies they didn’t create.
Cabada blamed the Mexican federal government for allowing large numbers of Central American migrants entry into Mexico in an uncontrolled manner.
The U.S. is now sending asylum-seekers to wait in Juárez for months while their claims are processed under the Trump administration’s new Migrant Protection Protocols, commonly known as the Remain in Mexico policy.
Since last year, about 15,000 migrants have arrived in Juárez, Cabada said. Last week, more than 4,500 migrants were estimated to be in Juárez waiting to enter the U.S. to make their first asylum claim, according to Chihuahua state officials.
Juárez is not prepared to house large numbers of migrants, said Cabada, adding that many migrants have false hopes of being able to stay in the United States.
“We have sent the message that they were tricked. The visas they believe they will receive do not exist,” he said. “It appears the message has been received and lately we have noticed fewer migrants arriving.”
Why don’t migrants get jobs in Mexico?
Since there is an estimated labor shortage of 20,000 in Juárez’s twin-plant industry, Cabada was asked why migrants don’t get jobs at the factories, known as maquiladoras
Companies are leery about the expense in hiring and training new employees who are looking to leave as soon as possible to the United States, Cabada said.
“It’s investing money to be thrown away,” Cabada commented.
Mexican officials and immigration lawyers also have said that migrants are being returned by the U.S. to Juárez without their birth certificates and identification documents, making it difficult for them to get work permits.
Bridge wait times
There is a negative impact in the hourslong waits to cross the international bridges from Juárez into El Paso due to the shifting of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to help the Border Patrol deal with the migrant influx, Cabada said.
“It has directly affected the thousands of Juarenses who cross daily to El Paso legally to go to school, go to work or to transport products manufactured in Juárez,” he said.
“There is a real impact on the Juárez community with this immigration problem,” said Cabada, who thanked CBP leaders in attendance for their help in trying to reduce waits.
Is it safe to go to Juárez?
El Pasoans used to go to Juárez regularly to eat, shop and visit, but now many are afraid because of the violence, one person told Cabada.
There have been more than 500 murders in Juárez this year. And although homicides are fewer than during the drug cartel war years ago, violence has increased in recent years.
However, Cabada urged tourists to return, saying, “Juárez is not dangerous for visitors.”
He said, “The violence we have is a criminal violence — I refer to violence among criminal groups and members of criminal groups in Juárez.”
Cabada said that the bloodshed is often tied to fractures within gangs vying for control of street-level drug markets.
“There are conflicts among their own groups,” he said. “First, it was the Aztecas. Now, we have a problem with the Mexicles. It is exactly the same. They started fighting among themselves.”
He added that festivals and other large events have taken place without problems.
He said that the city of Juárez is working on a setting up a police surveillance system with 500 cameras, expanding and improving streetlights and has added hundreds of new police patrol vehicles.
Similar police camera systems have been installed in years past.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; firstname.lastname@example.org; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
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