January 31, 2020 / 3:04 AM / 24 days ago

Brazilians sent to Mexico by U.S. say they don't understand why

CIUDAD JUAREZ (Reuters) - Bewildered, sad and disappointed, Brazilians migrants sent from the United States to Mexico this week were left wondering how they had ended up in another country whose language they do not understand.

The United States on Wednesday began sending some Brazilian migrants who had crossed the border with Mexico back there to await their U.S. court hearings under a programme known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

It is one of several moves by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump aimed at reducing the number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the programme began a year ago, more than 57,000 non-Mexican migrants have been returned to Mexico.

“I don’t understand why I was sent here,” said Brazilian migrant Tania Costa, adding that she did not understand Spanish and had been unable to communicate with Mexican officials. “Why did they return me to Mexico and not Brazil?”

She said U.S. officials had not explained to her that she would be sent to Mexico. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ten Brazilian migrants were sent to Mexico under MPP on Wednesday, according to Enrique Valenzuela, who heads the civil protection services in Chihuahua state. The programme was previously limited to Spanish speakers.

Among them were Costa and her six-year old daughter. They had left Belo Horizonte in the southwestern state Minas Gerais, Brazil just over a week ago, she said.

“I had heard of people who managed, so I tried as well,” she said. “I had a court date, everything was scheduled, but they didn’t let me stay there.”

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She was getting death threats because of her inability to pay her debt, she said, and that she had no job. “They said since we don’t want to go back to Brazil, because we’re being threatened, then we have to return to Mexico,” she said.

U.S. Border Patrol caught roughly 17,900 Brazilians at the southwestern border with Mexico in the last fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2018. The figure was a sharp increase from 1,500 arrests a year earlier.

“I would like to return to the United States,” said Costa. “They gave us a court date, but in April. And we have no way to get back to Brazil.”

Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez; Additional reporting by Brad Haynes in Sao Paulo, Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Grant McCool

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