Deportees at Migrant Shelter on Mexican Border Face Choice: Turn Back or Try Crossing Again

The migrants rose before dawn to prepare a breakfast of bean burritos and champurrado, a Mexican cinnamon-chocolate drink whose scent filled the dining hall of their temporary shelter in this heavily trafficked border town across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.

Migrants and deportees at Casa Migrante shelter run by Catholic priests in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, gather for breakfast before heading to work in March 2018. (Credit: Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

Migrants and deportees at Casa Migrante shelter run by Catholic priests in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, gather for breakfast before heading to work in March 2018. (Credit: Molly Hennessy-Fiske / Los Angeles Times)

The number of migrants apprehended at the southern border has dipped since President Trump took office, but hundreds still arrive each week at Casa Migrante, a haven in this border city still haunted by drug cartel violence that scared off U.S. tourists and businesses during the last decade. The surrounding state of Tamaulipas, which hugs the border, is still one of the most violent in Mexico, and the State Department this year warned Americans against traveling there. Few migrants want to linger in Nuevo Laredo.

The free shelter run by Catholic priests has space for 100 at a time in a white concrete building beside the river. On this recent morning, the migrants, most of them men, ate breakfast at plastic tables next to a map of the U.S., a picture of Jesus with his disciples and Spanish banners proclaiming, “Justice for migrants” and “If the migrant is not your brother, God is not your father.”

Some of the migrants were Central Americans — first-time visitors to Nuevo Laredo. Others were recently deported from the U.S. The deportees, in particular, had a difficult decision: Should they admit defeat and give up, or risk prison by trying to cross illegally again?

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