Witnesses reported that around two dozen makeshift tents were set ablaze and destroyed at a migrant camp in Matamoros, a city near Brownsville, Texas. The fires took place over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, and most of the roughly 2,000 people living in the camp are from Venezuela, Haiti, and Mexico.
The incident highlights the extreme risks of being stranded in Mexico, as the Biden administration increasingly relies on the country to host people fleeing poverty and violence.
According to an advocate for migrants, the tents were doused with gasoline, and the people living in them were forced to flee as the fires raged.
Thankfully, there were no reports of significant injuries or deaths, but approximately 25 makeshift shelters, comprised of materials such as plastic, tarps, and branches, were destroyed. Many residents also lost their belongings, including clothing and important documents.
Some residents of the camp witnessed the events firsthand, including Margarita, a Mexican woman who saw migrants from Venezuela screaming as the fires raged.
Some of these migrants had their children with them and had only managed to grab a few essential items before they were forced to flee. Criminal groups often target migrants in the area, extorting them for money in exchange for permission to pass through their territory.
The director of the Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants, Juan José Rodríguez, claimed that a group of migrants was responsible for setting the fires, as they were frustrated with the U.S. government’s mobile app for asylum claims.
The app, known as CBPOne, assigns turns for people to show up at the border and claim asylum, but there are not enough slots for all of the migrants waiting in Mexico. This has led to increased tensions in border cities like Matamoros, where migrants are often housed in shelters and camps.
On March 27, a fire allegedly started by a detained migrant killed 40 men at a Mexican immigration detention center in Ciudad Juarez.
The U.S. government is increasingly relying on Mexico to house migrants while preparing to end pandemic-era asylum restrictions on May 11. Additionally, the Biden administration is finalizing a policy that would deny asylum to people who pass through another country, such as Mexico, to reach U.S. soil.