Stunned by the hot sun and her walk in the Arizona desert, Gladys Martinez can barely speak when she finally sets foot on American soil after crossing a gap in the wall that separates the United States from Mexico in Yuma .
“We come to ask for asylum”, says this Honduran in a trembling voice, showing photos on which appear, according to her, the disfigured face of her murdered daughter.
Despite “Title 42”, a health measure activated during the pandemic by the government of former President Donald Trump, which allows migrants to be deported without a visa on the spot, dozens of people march every day like Gladys by one of the breaches that line this border wall in Arizona.
She says she has traveled more than 4,000 kilometers from her hometown in Honduras, part of which on foot, with only documents in a small bag and the clothes on her back.
“Look! Look! They killed my daughter, they suffocated her,” exclaims Gladys, explaining that she wants to seek refuge in the United States for fear of being killed in turn.
Many of the migrants arriving at the US southern border are from Central America and arrive with sordid histories of violence and murder by gangs or other armed groups.
Many come up against the high wall that runs through the desert and hills separating Mexico and the United States, all the way to the choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Others manage, by their own means or via smugglers, to this breach of Yuma.
On condition of anonymity, police officers explain to AFP that a gate was supposed to be built there to allow access to a water reservoir located on the Mexican side, but that the work was stopped after the election of Joe Biden as president.
– “We don’t like questions” –
On the Mexican side, a road runs along the wall, in the middle of dunes and brush.
Frequently, a vehicle parks on the side of the road and brings down migrants clutching their meager possessions.
Then men or women lead them along sandy paths towards the United States.
“Everyone has their own way, and they don’t like someone else taking them,” says a man leaning against his car, in the shade of a tree. He calls himself a trader but quickly warns: “We don’t like people who ask questions here”.
“I’m the boss here, if I tell him to make you disappear, he makes you disappear,” he adds, pointing to a silent young man who stands by his side.
Migrants alighting from cars hurry towards the wall, their guides returning soon after to leave as they came.
On the American side, the migrants are greeted on leaving the breach by border police officers, who offer them water, ask them if they are armed, where they come from, if they have papers. ..
Miguel, who came from Peru, is accompanied by his daughters and his wife, who has a bloody head wound. “Someone threw a stone at her,” he explains, while she is being treated by American nurses.
“They probably took someone’s path”, commented a police officer a little later.
The few migrants who were lucky enough to escape border guards left behind a pile of packets of biscuits, plastic bottles and plane tickets torn into small pieces.
“They want to travel as light as possible,” explains the policeman.
And those who are taken? It’s a safe bet that they will be expelled under “Title 42” and that they will try their luck again as soon as they can.
Because if the measure, maintained Friday by a federal judge despite the wish of the government to lift it, does not allow any legal recourse, even for those who wish to file an asylum application, it does not entail any legal consequences either…
The Biden government has announced its decision to appeal this judgment.
“Americans can go party in Mexico without wearing a mask or being vaccinated, but people who want to seek asylum are left in limbo, being told that they cannot enter the United States because of the Covid” , gets carried away Dulce Garcia, of the NGO Border Angels.