JACUMBA, United States: Hundreds of migrants who cross into the United States from Mexico each day are being herded into open-air camps, where they have no access to food or water.
And some are left to sleep on the open ground in a desert riddled with scorpions and snakes, activists say. Campaigners say many will be there for days, waiting to be processed by an immigration system that is overwhelmed by -- and under-prepared for -- the sheer number of people.
“We were told by border patrol that this is the new normal,” Erika Pinheiro, executive director of the non-governmental Al Otro Lado, told AFP in Jacumba, California. Pinheiro said authorities keep asylum-seekers confined in camps like this until they can be taken to an official processing center.
In the Jacumba area, a total daily average of 800 people are in the three camps. “The migrants are told that they will be deported unless they stay in these camps,” Pinheiro said.
“However, Border Patrol is not providing food, water, shelter or medical care. Sanitary facilities are abysmal.” Al Otro Lado -- whose name means “On the other side” -- is one of a number of non-profits that bring food, water and blankets, and provide some medical care.
At this time of year, the daytime desert sun is fierce, but nighttime temperatures can plunge below freezing. The sites have some tattered tents, but other occupants AFP met this week huddled around fires for warmth, feeding them with scrappy branches they found nearby.
There were two dirty portable toilets which must be shared by women, men and children alike. US Border Patrol officials who visit the camps distribute colored bracelets indicating the day on which a migrant first made contact. These bracelets determine the order in which the wearers are allowed to board infrequent buses to the processing centers.