JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The City of Juarez said it will ask Venezuelan migrants to leave busy street intersections where they are trying to earn a living washing car windows and asking for “solidarity” from motorists.
City officials say they are doing this for the safety of the migrants who can get run over while approaching the motorists and to protect them from cold temperatures. But merchants along busy tourist strips like Juarez and Lerdo avenues said the migrants have become a nuisance.
On Thursday, one of them called the police after several Venezuelans allegedly began punching each other and one pulled a large knife, in a dispute for control of the busy Lerdo and Mejia intersection three blocks south of El Paso’s Stanton Street Bridge.
“Things have gotten ugly. We don’t want to affect (the migrants), we simply want them to let us work,” said Talo Maldonado, who runs a print shop on Avenida Lerdo. “Since they came, there have been problems. Yesterday, a motorist got mad because they scratched his car. He came back followed by two other cars, but they (the migrants) had left already. […] They are doing too many crazy things now. We want them out of here.”
Juarez police on the scene confirmed the incident and said they took several people into custody but would not divulge who they were or their nationality.
Dr. Humberto Flores, a dentist whose business is also located on Lerdo, said he fears the large number of migrants on street corners will drive off potential clients.
“For more than a month, a large group of people from Venezuela are hanging out here, they approach cars, try to clean the windshield. Yesterday, they had a fight, but today it was worse,” Flores said. “I don’t criticize them because I know they have needs, but if they (the motorists) tell them ‘no,’ it’s no.”
Flores said the presence of the migrants affects his business, which is heavily dependent on U.S. visitors.
“As it is, they don’t come because of the violence (in Juarez), and now this. […] That has affected us greatly,” the dentist said.
Santiago Gonzalez Reyes, head of Juarez’s Human Rights Office, said city officials this week contacted at least 57 migrants hanging out at street corners. City officials offered them shelter and job referrals – the local industry has thousands of unfilled jobs.
Gonzalez said most of the migrants the city has come in contact with agree to leave the streets. But he said they are quickly replaced by others.
“This is something that is becoming common. There are a lot of people at intersections,” he said. “Our main concern is families, making sure they are in safe places with access to medical and education services. Several businesses are working with us to accommodate the migrants.”
At another Downtown Juarez intersection, a migrant who identified himself as Samuel Machina said he and most of his peers approach motorists in a courteous manner and desist if told “no thanks.”
However, he said he realizes too many migrants who were not allowed to cross into the United States to seek political asylum are stuck in Juarez and need to make a living any way they can.
Gonzales said the Kiki Romero municipal shelter hosted more than 700 migrants in January.