The US-Mexico Border - migrant doctors and nurses

Migrant Doctors and Nurses Are Treating Fellow Asylum Seekers On the US-Mexico Border

Under the Trump Administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as the “remain in Mexico” policy), asylum seekers hoping to enter the United States must wait in Mexico until immigration hearings can be arranged. Prior to the pandemic, these waits could last months. However, since President Trump’s recent decision to close the US-Mexico border, migrants have found themselves in limbo. During the pandemic immigration proceedings have been postponed, and only a small trickle of refugees have been allowed into the United States.

Many thousands of people who have made the arduous journey from Central America, Venezuela, and Cuba are now living in makeshift camps just south of the border. There they have limited access to basic necessities, medical supplies, and hygiene products. Humanitarians have been concerned since the start of the pandemic that camps like these might suffer greatly in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. However, numerous dedicated and selfless medical workers are making the best of very challenging circumstances.

A camp clinic in Matamoros

The Los Angeles Times reports on the situation in Matamoros, which shares an international border with Brownsville at the very southern tip of the Texas. There, in a tent camp housing thousands of asylum seekers, Florida-based nonprofit Global Response Management has set up a small medical clinic. What is remarkable about this facility is that it is staffed almost entirely by trained nurses and doctors who are themselves migrants residing in the camp. Many of them are Cuban. They receive $15 to $30 per day for their service. Fortunately, to date, none of the crowded camp’s residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

A boy cries while his temperature is taken. Migrant Doctors and Nurses
A child who is seeking asylum in the U.S. cries as medical staff take his temperature in the migrant camp of Matamoros, Mexico. April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Go Nakamura

The Los Angeles Times article profiles several of these altruistic clinic workers, including:

  • Dr. Dairon Elisondo Rojas
    A Cuban, Rojas and his girlfriend traveled for more than a month by plane, boat and bus before arriving in Matamoros.
  • Nurse Alberto Lopez
    Lopez, age 56, had been sent by Cuban authorities to work in Venezuela as part of an oil trade between the countries. Subsequently, he and his Venezuelan wife were forced to flee violence and suffering under the Maduro regime.
  • Dr. Lestter Guerra
    An ideological opponent of the communist Cuban government, Guerra was prohibited from practicing medicine in Cuba after completing stints in Venezuela and Brazil.

The situation in Ciudad Juárez

A similar situation exists in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez. There, migrant Cuban and Venezuelan medics have been treating over 20 patients daily in a temporary shelter. Watch the video below for the full story.

(c) 2020 Thomson Reuters

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