At US-Mexico border, migrants from Africa, Haiti wait to seek asylum

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
By Paul Martin

Rick Jervis
June 4, 2019

LAREDO, Texas – Congolese in Nuevo Laredo. Cubans in Ciudad Juarez. Haitians in Tijuana.

Encouraged by Mexico’s lax immigration rules and held up by President Donald Trump’s border policies, refugees from countries other than Central America and Mexico are streaming to the U.S.-Mexican border at a rising clip, often to be kept in asylum limbo.

In Nuevo Laredo, across the border from this South Texas city, more than 1,500 Central and West African refugees have massed at the border, trying to seek asylum but stuck while U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents slowly process only a handful of migrants a day, said Mike Smith, a Methodist pastor who runs a migrant shelter in Laredo. Some have been there for more than two months, he said.

“They don’t speak the language, they don’t have money, they’re not very well-received in Mexico,” Smith said. “They’re in limbo.”

Large caravans of Central Americans – from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – arriving at the border have dominated headlines in recent months, but asylum seekers from an array of other countries have steadily arrived, posing a more complex challenge to immigration officials on both sides of the border.

Last week, Border Patrol agents from the Del Rio Sector in Texas apprehended a group of 37 immigrants from the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including families and small children, as they attempted to cross into the USA.

Since the beginning of fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, agents across the U.S.-Mexican border have apprehended more than 27,000 people from 37 countries other than Mexico, according to Border Patrol statistics. Del Rio Sector’s apprehensions of non-Mexican migrants this year has increased by nearly 500% over the same period in fiscal year 2018.

“We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area,” Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz said in a statement. “Groups of family units from around the world are traveling thousands of miles just to enter the United States illegally to exploit our immigration laws.”

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