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Two freight rail companies issued warnings of potential disruptions to thousands of tonnes of cargo in Mexico this week due to operational issues caused by a surge of migrants attempting to reach the US.
Grupo Mexico announced that it had temporarily halted 60 trains across the country due to “severe risks” to the migrants. On Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) closed train traffic at several border crossings near Eagle Pass, a small town on the Rio Grande approximately 150 miles west of San Antonio, Texas, leaving numerous tonnes of freight stranded. Union Pacific confirmed the situation.
Union Pacific stated that there is currently no estimated time for the reopening of Eagle Pass, where the mayor has declared a state of emergency. The company mentioned that some trains are being held at the start of their routes to alleviate congestion.
“Thousands of rail cars cross the border at Eagle Pass each day and once the gateway reopens, our goal is to quickly get trains launched and restore cross-border movement,” said Union Pacific.
CBP, a federal agency, implemented “immediate action” by suspending rail operations and vehicular traffic at several crossings in the area to provide additional resources and personnel. According to the agency, approximately 2,500 migrants were picked up at Eagle Pass on Wednesday.
There has been a significant surge of migration from Latin America and the Caribbean to the US, primarily driven by political repression and economic crises. Venezuela, Haiti, and Cuba have been among the largest sources of migrants.
This influx of migrants, particularly into the US, has presented political and humanitarian challenges for President Joe Biden. Fellow Democrats have been urging him to provide more assistance to US cities and states struggling to support waves of migrants.
On Wednesday, the White House announced an extension of temporary protections for nearly half a million Venezuelans already in the US. This move allows them to work legally without the fear of deportation. While Republican critics argue that this will encourage more migrants, Kathy Hochul, the Democratic governor of New York, welcomed the decision, stating that the state would immediately begin the process of providing work authorization and employment opportunities.
In Manhattan, Venezuelan asylum-seekers celebrated the news of the policy change. They expressed their gratitude to President Biden and expressed their desire to work and contribute to society.
The Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan has been repurposed as a processing center for the over 120,000 asylum seekers that have arrived in New York City in the past year. The influx of migrants has placed a burden on the city, with Mayor Eric Adams warning that it could “destroy” the city.
The US government has consistently pushed Mexico to help contain migration. While Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, expresses sympathy towards migrants, his government has deployed armed forces and immigration agents to increase detentions.
On Thursday, López Obrador criticized global organizations such as the UN and World Bank for not doing enough to assist poorer countries. He stated that there is a lack of comprehensive plans from major powers to alleviate poverty in these nations.
Grupo Mexico operates portions of the train route known as “The Beast,” which many migrants travel through in an attempt to evade immigration agents stationed throughout the country. Migrants describe the journey as brutal, with risks of falling off the train, exposure to freezing temperatures, and food scarcity.
In the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, over 1,500 people were gathered at one of Grupo Mexico’s operations in Torreon. Additionally, hundreds more were located in central states such as Guanajuato and Aguascalientes, according to the company.
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