Migrants flee more countries _ regardless of US policies


TIJUANA, Mexico — In 2014, groups of unaccompanied children escaping violence in Central America overwhelmed US border authorities in South Texas.. In 2016, thousands of Haitians fled a devastating earthquake and stopped in Tijuana, Mexico, after walking and catching a bus through 11 countries to the US border.

In 2018, about 6,000 mainly Guatemalan and Honduran migrants fleeing violence and poverty arrived in Tijuana, many of them families with young children sleeping in parks and icy streets, drenched in rain.

The Trump-era asylum ban, briefly extended Wednesday by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, is one of several US policies that influence migrants’ decisions to leave their homes. The past eight years have shown an extraordinary convergence of inequality, civil strife and natural disasters that have also driven millions out of Latin America, Europe and Africa. According to the United Nations, since 2017, the United States has been the top destination for asylum seekers in the world.

This is part of an occasional series on how the United States has become the world’s top destination for asylum seekers.

Migrants have been denied the right to seek asylum under US and international law 2.5 million times since March 2020 on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19, an authority known as the Standard Title 42. It applies to all nationalities but has been disproportionately reduced to those from the countries Mexico regained — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and, more recently, Venezuela, as well as Mexico. Pent-up demand expected to drive crosses higher when the refugee restriction ends.

As the pandemic unfolded, rare nationalities at the border increased every month—from Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia. High costs, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations complicate US efforts to expel people from countries Mexico will not host.

Cubans are fleeing their homes in the largest numbers in six decades to escape economic and political turmoil. Most fly to Nicaragua as tourists and gradually make their way to the United States. They were the second largest nationality on the border after Mexicans in October.

Grissell Matos Prieguez and her husband surrendered to border agents near Eagle, Pass, Texas, October 30, after a 16-day journey through six countries that included buses, motorbikes and taxis as well as trips a weary walk in the night through the bushes and the smelly river.

Matos, a 34-year-old engineer, said: “During the journey, you feel like you are going to die, you don’t trust anyone, you don’t believe anything. “You live in constant fear, or being held captive and something is going to happen.”

To pay for the trip from Santiago de Cuba, they sold everything, including computers and bicycles, and borrowed money from relatives in Florida. Their parents and grandparents stayed.

A recent uptick has made El Paso, Texas, the busiest corridor for illegal border crossings made up of mostly Nicaraguans, with whom the government has quelled dissent.

The Haitians who stop by South America, sometimes for years, have had a large presence, most notably when nearly 16,000 people camped out in the small town of Del Rio, Texas, in September 2021. Authorities Biden has sent many home but has returned slowly as increasingly blatant attacks by gangs have grown stronger since the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse last year.

Migration is often driven by “pull factors” that attract people to a country, such as the US’s relatively strong economy and the asylum system that takes years to decide on a case. encourage some to come even when they feel incapable of winning. But domestic conditions, known as “driving factors,” could be to blame for the unprecedented numbers over the past year.

Looking back, lawyer Tijuana and migrant advocate Soraya Vazquez says that 2016’s Haitian diaspora was a watershed.

“We started to realize that there were huge movements all over the place — in some places because of the war, in others,” said Vazquez, a San Diego native and former legislative aide in Mexico City. due to political situation, violence, climate change. “A lot of things happened at once, but in the end, it’s our people and our government that are responsible.”

After organizing legal seminars for Haitians in Tijuana, Vazquez helped bring Chef Jose Andres’ World Center Kitchen to migrant shelters in the city for four years. Seeking financial stability, she became Tijuana director of Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit group that reported $4.1 million in revenue in 2020 and was recently named an operating beneficiary MacKenzie Scott’s philanthropy.

“What caused all this? Inequality,” Vazquez said as he drank tea in Tijuana’s trendy Cacho neighborhood.

For decades, Mexicans, mostly adult men, came to America to find work and send money home. But in 2015, the Pew Research Center found more Mexicans returning to Mexico from the US since the end of the Great Recession.

Mexicans still made one in three encounters with US border agents in the financial year ended September 30, higher than three years ago but much lower than the 85% reported in 2011 and 95% at the turn of the century. And the fugitives are families increasingly trying to escape drug-induced violence against young children.

Like clockwork, hundreds of people crossed the border after midnight in Yuma, Arizona, walking through the Mexican bush to surrender to US agents. Many people fly to the nearby city of Mexicali after entering Mexico as tourists and catching a taxi to the desert. Border Patrol dropped them off at the Regional Border Medical Center, a clinic that charters six daily buses to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The clinic brought in families from more than 140 countries in August – not one from Mexico, said Amanda Aguirre, its chief executive.

Daniel Paz, a Peruvian who surrendered to border agents in Yuma with his wife and 10-year-old child in August, was unexpectedly deported to his country without a chance of asylum – unusual even after Peru’s government began accepting two chartered US flights a week.

Peruvians were stopped more than 9,000 times by US authorities along the Mexican border in October, nearly nine times the same period a year ago and up from just 12 the year before.

Paz is monitoring developments around Title 42 and considering another attempt after the government of Peruvian President Pedro Castillo was ousted on December 7.

“We’ll see if I come back in January or February,” he texted Sunday from Lima. “There is no lack of desire.”

The latest Tijuana newcomers are Venezuelans, some 300 of whom recently temporarily occupied a city-owned entertainment center.

About 7 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014, including nearly 2 million to neighboring Colombia, but have only recently begun arriving in the United States.

Many Venezuelans gathered at the Mexican refugee office that opened in Tijuana in 2019 and have processed more than 3,000 applications a year for the past two years from dozens of countries, led by Haitians and Hondurans.

Jordy Castillo, 40, said he had wanted to leave Venezuela for 15 years but didn’t act until friends and family started coming to the US last year. His three brothers were the first of his group to seek asylum there, although they did not know anyone.

“They found someone who took them in and settled in,” he said.

Associated Press writer Gisela Salomon of Miami contributed.


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