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A pastor evicted nearly 200 migrants. So, his brother welcomed them all home.

Pastor Víctor Barrientos' church once housed 200 asylum seekers—until he decided they were too "out of control."

A pastor evicted nearly 200 migrants. So, his brother welcomed them all home.
Image Source: Migrants Huddle In Camps And Shelters In Tijuana Waiting To Cross Into U.S. TIJUANA, MEXICO - JULY 20. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Evangelical pastor Víctor Barrientos lives in the Mexican border city of Matamoros, where he also operates his church. Over the summer, as migrants rushed to his town, he invited them to live in his church. However, his patience soon grew thin. He claimed the asylum seekers were "out of control," messy, and loud. Furthermore, as the pandemic's third wave hit, they eventually began contracting the deadly Coronavirus. In late June, Barrientos decided to evict the nearly 200 migrants he once welcomed. Although he let a few families stay, dozens became homeless overnight. When the pastor's estranged brother Joel, a technician for an internet provider, learned of their plight, he housed as many as he could into his one-bedroom home, The New York Times reports.


"I’m not receiving any help from the state or federal government," Barrientos stated. "This is just a church, not a place to shelter people." According to his brother, Joel is not sure what happened to him. He and his wife Gabriela Violante moved most of their belongings into their bedroom to make space for the migrants. The couple now sleeps on the floor. As for those who could not find space indoors, Joel helped them set up tents on the roof.


The migrants, too, are unsure of what happened to Barrientos. Many of them shared that he treated them well. Iris Romero Acosta, a Honduran migrant who met the pastor in 2019 when she was living on the streets in Matamoros, revealed, "I’ll be honest, he treated me beautifully. He brought us food and took us in. He took good care of us. He was really caring." However, this was before he left the church under his brother's care while he made a run for mayor this year. Now, Acosta finds it difficult to reconcile the image of the same man who took her in off the streets with the one who threw her to the curb. "He became unrecognizable," she said. "My pastor’s heart changed."


Perhaps the state of affairs in his church is what caused the 180-degree switch. When Barrientos returned in April, the church had swelled up with people. There were long lines to use the bathrooms and the floors were covered in families sleeping back to back. Due to this overpopulation, people started getting sick: rashes, colds, and COVID-19. He recalled that the fridges were “full of bugs” and “no one was wearing masks." So, he evicted a majority of the migrant families his church housed. The pastor affirmed, "I can’t solve everyone’s life for them."


These days, Joel's home is packed with the twice-displaced asylum seekers. Reportedly, so many people put up tents on the roof that recently “the ceiling started to fall," he said. To support the extra weight, he built a column in the middle of his living room. He also built an extra bathroom in his entryway. When asked about why he took in so many, Joel spoke about his faith. He explained, "We love the Lord’s work." His wife, on the other hand, was more pointed. "He can talk about the Bible," she said of the pastor, her brother-in-law. "But he doesn’t put it into practice."


The migrant crisis in Matamoros worsened after former United States President Donald Trump forced people to stay in Mexico while they applied for refugee status. Initially, the city was just a brief stopping point for asylum seekers. Presently, migrants stay in Matamoros for the long haul. When President Joe Biden entered office and began permitting asylum seekers to cross over to the US, a migrant encampment in Matamoros was closed down. However, more people arrived; they were met with a shut door at an overwhelmed border. Today, hundreds, if not thousands, await asylum—all of them holed up in the tiny city of Matamoros.


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