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Mexico razes migrant camp that sprung up across the border from El Paso, Texas

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Mexican authorities have razed a migrant camp just across the border from El Paso, Texas, where as many as a thousand people from Venezuela hunkered down for the last month and a half. The makeshift settlement on the banks of the Rio Grande sprang up after the Biden administration blocked most Venezuelans from crossing the border to seek asylum. KTEP's Angela Kocherga reports.

ANGELA KOCHERGA, BYLINE: City cleanup crews tore down some 300 tents where migrants had been sleeping for weeks and tossed them into a dump truck to be crushed. Migrants watched as workers raked up their shoes, baby blankets and other belongings they couldn't grab quickly enough after Mexican law enforcement authorities ordered them to leave over the weekend. Almeida Escobar (ph) stood on the muddy bank, stunned.

ALMEIDA ESCOBAR: (Non-English language spoken).

KOCHERGA: She asked tearfully, why are they doing this? She said Mexican officials forced her and her 5-year-old daughter out of their tent. The head of the state of Chihuahua's population council, Enrique Valenzuela, said it's for the migrants' own good.

ENRIQUE VALENZUELA: We have been coming here for several days now, several weeks even, to let them know that this is no place for them to stay, and that they are at a higher risk of not only having health problems but security issues also.

KOCHERGA: Since the camp that migrants call Little Venezuela sprung up, temperatures have dipped below freezing. Many people have gotten sick. Authorities worried they could fall victim to crime. But migrants have resisted leaving. They say there's safety in numbers. And they want to stay right here at the border to cross the moment Title 42, the pandemic-era restriction, is lifted. And they'll be allowed into the U.S. to apply for asylum. That's supposed to happen in about three weeks. So that's why many at the camp refused to board the buses Mexican authorities provided to take them to shelters in Ciudad Juarez, like friends Kevin Perez (ph) and Fabiola Teran (ph).

KEVIN PEREZ: (Non-English language spoken).

FABIOLA TERAN: (Non-English language spoken).

KOCHERGA: They said they don't trust Mexican officials and fear they'll be sent back to Venezuela. Teran held her 7-month-old son, who was wrapped in a heavy blanket to shield him from the cold wind. They said they'd look for someplace else to stay while they wait for the day next month when they hope they can cross the border.

For NPR News in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, I'm Angela Kocherga.

(SOUNDBITE OF BREAK OF REALITY'S "DRIFT APART") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Angela Kocherga