EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexico is offering to absorb into its labor force at least some of the thousands of Venezuelans expelled from the United States under the Title 42 public health policy.
The three-tiered program includes an invitation to apply for refugee status, 180-day permits with an option for temporary work, and negotiations with the government of Venezuela to set up voluntary repatriation flights from Mexico City.
In the meantime, the Foreign Ministry has begun pouring resources into shelters throughout Mexico scrambling to accommodate Venezuelans – in addition to migrants from the Northern Triangle of Central America and internally displaced Mexicans.
“What we want to do is offer them alternatives. If they want to stay in Mexico, they can do that,” said Arturo Rocha, chief of staff for North American Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
The surge in resources comes as Mexico and the United States attempt to jointly manage the tail end of a large and sudden increase in Venezuelan nationals making their way north to seek asylum in the U.S. in September and early October.
Arrivals of Venezuelans at the U.S.-Mexico border have plummeted in the past two weeks. That coincides with the U.S. decision to make Venezuelan asylum seekers amenable to Title 42 expulsions and the offer to admit up to 24,000 who apply remotely.
“We are looking at three sets of numbers that are important,” Rocha told Border Report during an interview at the Mexican consulate in El Paso. “At the end of October, we had 1,500 (Venezuelans) crossing the border every day, now we have less than 150. The second figure comes from Panama, where there is an 80 percent decrease of Venezuelan citizens crossing the Darien Gap. That is also very good news.”
The other metric has to do with migrant shelters in Mexico. Once bursting at the seams, those shelters now have vacancies even as new, emergency shelters pop up. “We visited a number of shelters in Ciudad Juarez and there is room. It is not an overcrowded city; it is a city that managed to get out of a very complicated situation,” he said.
In Juarez, the Chamber of Industry on Wednesday also outlined a proposal to get Venezuelans and other migrants with permits to apply for jobs. Chamber officials said manufacturing plants (maquiladoras) are short between 5,000 and 6,000 workers and could use the labor.
Rocha said he was in Tijuana and Nogales earlier this week to share details of the multi-agency response to the Venezuelan migrant situation. He plans to be in Piedras Negras later this week.
The response includes resources from the International Organization for Migration, UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency, as well as Mexico’s Bienestar (Social Welfare) Office. The shelters are getting food, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products, Rocha said.
“We formed a group for this humanitarian response to help all immigrants in Mexican territory, but specifically targeting Venezuelan citizens,” he said. “The second phase of the program entails the integration to the labor market and Mexican society in general [….] Mexico is now third in the world in refugee applications. We try to be very generous and take pride in our history of protecting refugees.”
In Juarez, federal and local authorities last week set up an emergency shelter for Venezuelans expelled from the United States. On Monday, they opened a second shelter exclusively for expelled families with children.