By chance, on the strength of a rumour, the 26-year-old Haitian came to the stairs of the pedestrian bridge that crosses the Rio Grande (or the Rio Bravo for Mexico) in Reynosa, the last stop on the road to migrants before Texas.
This Thursday, she will only sit on the steps, in the city center of the border town which stretches out under a blazing sun.
The border is not completely closed. On Friday morning, migrants (mainly Haitians and Hondurans) passed legally on board a yellow school bus “School bus” which took them to the bridge.
“These are families who have obtained the right to return to the United States through their lawyers,” explains Pastor Hector Silva, manager of a shelter that accompanies them.
Perhaps waiting for their own lucky day, Michelle and several hundred Haitians wait in the dust of Reynosa, known for episodes of drug-trafficking violence.
With the means at hand (Facebook, WhatsApp), they follow the standoff between the White House and the American justice on “Title 42” which concerns them directly.
On Friday, a conservative judge prevented the Biden administration from lifting this health restriction which allows visa-free migrants to be immediately sent back to Mexico, even before they can file an asylum application.
The Biden government immediately announced its decision to appeal the judgment.
– “Past the river, glory” –
In Reynosa, “Title 42” is one concern among others, with the lawyer that must be found in Mexico or the United States, housing, health, food, children.
And opinions are divided and contradictory.
“If they lift it (title 42), the United States will deport more people. It is better for us that they extend it,” says Sarah Jimenez, a Dominican who is traveling with her Haitian husband.
We are in the legal nuance, which weighs so heavily on weakened lives: deported under Title 42, migrants can try their luck as many times as they wish from Mexico. On the other hand, it is more difficult, once “deported” to their country of origin.
“There is a lot of uncertainty and little official information,” summarizes the humanitarian manager of Médecins Sans Frontières, Anayeli Flores. “People are confused. They don’t know which procedure to start with.”
One thing is certain: there have never been so many migrants.
At the beginning of May, nearly 2,000 of them, including women and children, were evacuated by the town hall from a square in the city center where they had camped for months.
Pastor Hector Silva’s reception center is full, along with three other denominational shelters (Catholic or Protestant). The last, the Kaleo center, was built in three months, between January and its inauguration in April.
At the head of the refuge “Senda Vida” (Path of life), the pastor must manage the anger of single people who feel wronged in relation to couples and families.
The man is outspoken. “Trust in God,” he says during a discussion with migrants.
“You have to do your part too. You have to go find a job, you have to find a home for your wife, to protect your child from the sun,” he adds.
A mini-society is organized in the small streets of Reynosa, at the gates of Texas and opulent McAllen. Against the background of “Nortena” (traditional music imbued with nostalgia), the locals seem to be getting used to the presence of foreigners going about their business.
Some still sleep on the streets. Better off, some rent apartments without deposit for 1,500 to 2,000 pesos per month (75 to 100 dollars).
Ricardo, a 15-year-old Haitian, waits for his father who has gone to work all day. His dream? Go to the United States. He doesn’t speak English, he says in perfect Spanish. “It can be learned,” he says casually after several years of school in Chile.
“My wife wanted to return to Honduras. Not me because as soon as you cross the river, it’s glory. The dream of many, not just mine”, concludes a Honduran, candidate for passage to the United States.