JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – El Paso was spared most of the power outages plaguing the rest of Texas. Across the border, however, Juarez is dealing with catastrophic damage.
One in three homes lacked water, gas or electrical service on Tuesday afternoon.
Chihuahua Gov. Javier Corral explained that electrical demand exceeded the supply, gas lines remained frozen, water pipes burst, and power was out at 42 wells.
To make matters worse, Texas cut back on natural gas exports to Mexico as it dealt with its own emergency, Corral said.
“The Federal Electricity Commission is urging all of us, emphatically, to make optimal use of electricity. It’s important to turn off lights and disconnect non-essential appliances,” Corral said on Facebook Live. “Industry no doubt will be affected. Production processes have already been affected because of the lack of energy, first, and now the gas shortage.”
He said rolling blackouts likely would begin on Tuesday evening and warned a new storm forecast for Wednesday might prolong the emergency through the end of the week.
One more crisis for migrant families
When power went out and the heating system stopped working at Good Samaritan, Maribel bundled her six children in every blanket she could find at the South Juarez shelter. When night came, she threw spare clothes on top of the blankets.
“We couldn’t even go outside the room because it was so cold. Now the electricity and gas are back, but we have no water. It’s still frozen,” the woman from Michoacan, Mexico, said.
On Tuesday afternoon, her sons and daughters shared a classroom with children from Brazil and Honduras whose families have spent more than a year waiting for a U.S. immigration judge to rule on their asylum claims.
The children smiled and played during a recess despite the cold and conversed with each other through language barriers and different accents. None took off their jackets inside the classroom.
Outside, grownups like Raul Estrada Zavala went about their chores in near-freezing temperatures fanned by a mountain breeze.
“I saw snow last year for the first time, but it was just a little and it wasn’t as cold as it is now,” said the native of Honduras, for whom February used to mean overnight temperatures in the mid-50s. “When the heat went out the pastor told us to bundle up. I’ts difficult, but the body gets used to anything.”
Good Samaritan Pastor Juan Fierro said the shelter has been greatly improved in the past few years, with a new wing, a larger kitchen, a video-security system and a recently installed heating system.
But no one could’ve predicted the failure of electricity, gas and water at the same time, he said. “We endured many hours without the heat in this cold weather. Thank God we had blankets. Our migrants got every blanket out of storage and use them. Now we got the electricity back, but let’s hope it doesn’t go out again,” Fierro said.
Good Samaritan is sheltering 80 migrants – a mix of Central and South Americans, Cubans and many Mexicans. Forty-seven are on the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, which the Biden administration plans to roll back beginning this Friday.
Fierro said the contingency bared the need for emergency gas heaters, which he used to have prior to the installation of central heating. “We don’t know how bad the next cold front will be. If people can help us with more blankets, we would be very grateful,” he said.
To contact the shelter call (011-52) 656 794-5330 or email Fierro at firstname.lastname@example.org
Waiting to hear news on MPP rollback
Estrada said he was heartened to hear news on social media about the Biden administration’s rollback of the MPP program. He has been in Juarez for nearly two years and every day grew more pessimistic about his chances to join his son in the United States.
“We were very sad at times. We didn’t know what was going to happen to us. Now we’re more confident. We have hope that we did not have before,” the Honduran national said.
The rollback starts on Friday and migrants already on MPP are expected to register and wait to be called to a U.S. port of entry. Estrada, however, said no one has told him what website he must use to register and fears he will follow a bogus link.
“We used to have a lawyer that came (to the shelter), but I have not seen her recently. I will follow social media to see if I can find it,” he said.
Estrada came to Juarez with his teen-aged son in 2019 but was disappointed to be sent to wait in Mexico — a country he had never visited and where he has no friends outside the shelter.
He said many acquaintances became desperate at the long wait and decided to cross illegally into the United States instead. He declined to follow, trusting that the process would eventually work out for him. His son, however, took off.
“He was detained and allowed (to continue the MPP process). He has turned 18 and is in Florida. That is where I hope to join him soon,” Estrada said.
Fierro said many new arrivals are Mexicans fleeing drug violence in the southern states. Mexicans were never placed in MPP, thus cannot benefit from Biden’s rollback of the program.
“It is a shame because they have been touched by awful violence. People say Juarez is a violent place, but for these families to decide to come here, it means their towns are in much worse shape,” he said.
Maribel, who declined to give her last name, said she left Michoacan after criminals kidnapped her husband and threatened her family. She has not seen her husband since.
“I have no news of him. And on top of that we got threats. We had to leave,” she said. “I think Mexicans also need the opportunity (to apply) for asylum. We are fleeing violence the same or worse as the others” from Central America and elsewhere, she said.
The woman said she went to the port of entry at El Paso, Texas to make a claim, but was turned back at the bridge. “They told me they would not talk to me. They told me to go back and wait. I am staying here because my family deserves an opportunity to live,” she said.
Michoacan for the past three years has been the battleground for local groups fighting the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which is trying to consolidate drug routes, marijuana and opium poppy farming in the mountains of Western Mexico, according to U.S. security experts.