The sun set Thursday on an all-too-familiar portrait of despair in the Rio Grande Valley. Some women carried crying babies, while others carried bags of belongings to the muddy river bank, where a group of men waited for them in life jackets to take turns from Mexico to the United States. That day alone, according to authorities, 2,000 migrants were captured in the valley.
“We’re coming to a new opportunity,” said one man, who traveled with his wife and young daughter.
U.S. officials have attributed this increase in part to instability in the region, exacerbated by the pandemic, and to perceptions among migrants of more welcoming immigration policies under a new president.
“We want to make a living here”
Roxana Rivera, 28, said she and her 6-year-old daughter left Honduras after consecutive November hurricanes destroyed their home and everything in it.
The news back home, Rivera said, was that the United States now allowed people with children to cross the border freely, which was not entirely true. He heard that on the news, he said. U.S. relatives transmitted the same information. Other migrants had similar stories.
Rivera said she was euphoric when border agents picked up the group with whom she crossed the border, mostly mothers and children. The migrants were prosecuted and then transferred to a bus station in Brownsville, Texas, where they were tested for Covid-19 and offered supplies to nonprofits before being released. He planned to stay with relatives in Houston while his immigration case is being processed.
“You always dream of living in a house with your kids,” Rivera said, getting excited. “Now we have nothing … We dream of having a house.”
Rivera said he sometimes regretted embarking on the long journey north on foot and by train, which put his daughter’s life at risk. Sometimes her daughter would ask for food and she would have none. Once, he said, the girl became dehydrated. Again he had to seek medical attention in Mexico when his daughter had a fever.
Maria Mendoza, a 30-year-old migrant from El Salvador, appeared exhausted when she arrived in Brownsville after being prosecuted by immigration officials. She was looking forward to meeting relatives living in Maryland, she said through tears.
Mendoza recalled that the raft she and others used on the Great River crossing at midnight capsized at one point, sending several mothers and their children into the water. He said there were days he didn’t eat so his 6-year-old daughter wouldn’t go hungry. Her daughter remembered avoiding a snake along the way.
“I want more than anything to reunite with my family,” he said. “We want to make a living here. A better future for our children.”
“We have nowhere to put people”
Border guards meet between 4,000 and 5,000 people daily, according to a National Security official.
“We’re packed,” said Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, which represents Border Patrol agents. “We’re crowded. We have nowhere to put people.”
He added: “We have them in custody and the system has collapsed and there is no place to send them.”
Unaccompanied migrant children are another part of the administration’s problem.
On Wednesday, the number of unaccompanied children in the custody of the border patrol reached more than 3,700, CNN reported. Many are detained in prison centers along the border.
The border patrol on Wednesday arrested about 800 unaccompanied migrant children, surpassing the current 450 newspapers, according to a National Security official.
About 8,800 unaccompanied children are in U.S. Health and Human Services custody, the department confirmed Thursday, up from 7,700 the previous week.
“The border is not open”
Roberta Jacobson, Biden’s coordinator for the southern border, said Wednesday that the administration’s message to migrants is now not the time to get there.
“It’s really important that people don’t make the dangerous journey in the first place, that we provide them with alternatives to make that journey, because it’s not safe en route,” he said.
“And so, you know, if I could just emphasize … that it’s very important that this message comes out, because the perception is not the same as the reality regarding the border that is not open.”
Jacobson reiterated the administration’s message: “The border is not open.” He said the Trump administration’s immigration policies were “intentionally getting worse.”
“We cannot undo four years of the previous administration’s actions overnight,” Jacobson said, adding that it will take “significant time to overcome” the effects of immigration policy. Trump.
The new administration’s handling of the situation has drawn criticism from Republicans and some Democrats.
Aside from unaccompanied children awaiting immigration cases, the Biden administration has continued to alienate most migrants. Some families are admitted to the United States on a case-by-case basis. A change in Mexican law banning the detention of young children has prevented U.S. immigration agents from separating migrant families.
In Brownsville, Sandra, 38, said she fled Honduras after years of threats from a family member. Her full name is not published because she is a victim of domestic violence. One day, he said, the family member appeared at his house with a gun and opened fire. One of her children and other family members attacked the man and prevented him from killing her.
Last year he lived with his son in a shopping town, on the Mexican side of the border, where he taught kindergarten students, and now awaits an asylum case in the US.
For now, a woman who runs a Brownsville charity has opened her home to Sandra and her young son. Sandra learned this week that she has an immigration court hearing in June. Wiping away tears, he said he would never return to Honduras.
“I had to leave for good,” he said. “I can’t live in my country.”
Ray Sanchez, Priscilla Alvarez and CNN’s Geneva Sands contributed to this story and Sanchez wrote in New York.
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