‘Tale of two borders’: Mexicans not seen at busy crossings

Sep 4, 2022, 5:20 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2022, 5:48 am
Migrants wait to be processed by Border Patrol agents near the end of a border wall Tuesday, Aug. 2...

Migrants wait to be processed by Border Patrol agents near the end of a border wall Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, near Yuma, Arizona. The Border Patrol is seeing a dramatic shift in the type of migrants who come across the busiest places on the U.S.-Mexico. Migrants are now coming from more than 100 countries, and Mexicans are virtually absent. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

YUMA, Ariz. (AP) — As hundreds of migrants line up along an Arizona border wall around 4 a.m., agents try to separate them into groups by nationality.

“Anyone from Russia or Bangladesh? I need somebody else from Russia here,” an agent shouts and then says quietly, almost to himself, “These are Romanian.”

It’s a routine task for the Border Patrol in the wee hours in this flat expanse of desert where the wall ends. Migrants from at least 115 countries have been stopped here in the last year, but that may be less striking than what’s missing: Mexicans are virtually absent.

Instead, families from Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, India and dozens of other countries arrive in Yuma after wading through the knee-deep Colorado River. Their presence reflects how a pandemic-era rule still shapes the journeys of many migrants, even though much of the U.S. has moved on from COVID-19.

The changing demographics mark a dramatic shift away from the recent past, when migrants were predominantly from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That’s especially clear at some of the busiest crossings, like Yuma and Eagle Pass, Texas, near where several people died in recent days while trying to cross the Rio Grande.

Mexicans still cross elsewhere but often try to elude capture because they are likely to be expelled under a pandemic rule that denies them a chance to seek asylum.

Mexicans still account for 7 of every 10 encounters in the Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona, sector, where smugglers order them to walk at night with black-painted water jugs, camouflage backpacks and boots with carpeted soles to avoid leaving tracks in the sand, said John Modlin, the sector chief.

“Incredibly different tale of two borders, even though they’re within the same state,” Modlin said.

Migrants who are not from Mexico and the Northern Triangle accounted for 41% of stops on the border from October through July, up from only 12% three years earlier, according to government data.

In Yuma, they wear sandals and carry shopping bags stuffed with belongings over their shoulders. Some carry toddlers. The migrants typically walk a short distance through tribal lands and surrender to agents, expecting to be released to pursue their immigration cases.

Meanwhile, Mexicans made up 35% of all border encounters from October through July, higher than three years ago but well below the 85% reported in 2011 and the 95% at the turn of the century.

In theory, the rule that denies migrants the right to seek asylum on grounds of preventing spread of COVID-19 applies to all nationalities. But in practice, Title 42 is enforced largely for migrants who are accepted by Mexico, which agreed to take in people expelled from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, as well as its own citizens.

It is difficult for the U.S. to send others to their home countries due to costs, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations.

“The challenge is what Mexico can accept,” Modlin said. “That’s always going to be a limiting factor.”

In Yuma, Title 42 has become almost nonexistent, with the pandemic rule being applied in only 192 of 24,424 stops in July — less than 1%. In Tucson, it was used in 71% of stops. A court order has kept Title 42 in place indefinitely.

It is unclear why routes are so divergent. U.S. officials believe inhospitable mountains and canyons near Tucson favor people trying to escape detection, while the ease of crossing in places like Yuma makes those paths better suited for families seeking to surrender.

“What we know with absolute certainty is that the smuggling organizations control the flow,” Modlin said. “They decide who goes where and when they go to the point. It’s almost like air traffic control of moving people around.”

In Yuma, groups of up to about two dozen migrants are dropped off by bus or car on a deserted Mexican highway and then begin arriving shortly after midnight at the edge of the imposing wall built during Donald Trump’s presidency.

If English and Spanish fail, agents use Google Translate to question them under generator-powered lights, take photos and load them onto buses.

Migrants arrive over several hours on different paths, sparking concern among agents that smugglers may be trying to confuse them to sneak some through undetected.

One recent morning, six Russians said they flew from Istanbul to Tijuana, Mexico, with a stop in Cancun, and hired a driver to take them four hours to the deserted highway where they crossed.

A 26-year-old man who flew from his home in Peru to Tijuana said the most difficult part of the journey was the anxiety about whether he’d make it to his destination in New Jersey.

Nelson Munera, 40, said he, his wife and their 17-year-old son got off a bus on the highway and crossed to Yuma because fellow Colombians had taken the same route.

Lazaro Lopez, who came with his 9-year-old son from Cuba by flying to Nicaragua and crossing Mexico over land, chose Yuma because that’s where his smuggler guided him.

“An opportunity presented itself,” said Lopez, 48.

The Border Patrol drops off hundreds of migrants each day at the Regional Center for Border Health, a clinic near Yuma that charters six buses daily to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Migrants are released on humanitarian parole or with a notice to appear in immigration court.

The clinic began the airport shuttles for migrants in February 2021 and recently added buses to Washington, paid for by the state of Arizona.

“We have seen families from over 140 countries,” said Amanda Aguirre, the health-care provider’s chief executive officer. “We haven’t seen one from Mexico, not through our processing.”

The shift is also evident on the Mexican side of the border.

The Don Chon migrant shelter in nearby San Luis Rio Colorado fills many of its roughly 50 beds with Central Americans who were expelled under Title 42.

Kelvin Zambrano, 33, who arrived in a large group of Hondurans, said he fled threats of extortion and gang violence. Border Patrol agents wouldn’t let him share his story, he said.

“I don’t know why, but they don’t want Hondurans,” he said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Lawmakers in breakaway Somaliland extend president’s term

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The House of Elders in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland has extended the term of office of President Muse Bihi Abdi by two years, a decision expected to cause more unrest by opposition groups. Sulayman Mohamud Adan, the speaker of the chamber, said lawmakers voted 72-1 with one abstention in favor […]
1 day ago
FILE - James Meredith, center right, is escorted by federal marshals as he appears for his first da...
Associated Press

Ole Miss honors James Meredith 60 years after integration

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The University of Mississippi is paying tribute to 89-year-old James Meredith 60 years after white protesters erupted into violence as he became the first Black student to enroll in what was then a bastion of Deep South segregation. As it has done on other 10-year anniversaries of integration, the university is […]
1 day ago
A medical attendant stands by rubber boots hung up to dry after being disinfected, outside the Ebol...
Associated Press

Testing trouble adds to disorder in Uganda’s Ebola response

MUBENDE, Uganda (AP) — The nurse wanted the toddler with a high fever transferred at once from a private clinic in Uganda to a public hospital even though the child tested positive for malaria amid an Ebola outbreak that has rattled health workers. But the clinic’s owner wasn’t convinced as he examined the boy in […]
1 day ago
FILE - Mormons listen during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' twice-annual church c...
Associated Press

Mormons to meet in Salt Lake City for biannual conference

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Tens of thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are scheduled to attend the faith’s biannual conference this weekend, in which senior leaders will address nearly 17 million believers throughout the world from their headquarters in Utah. The conference, held at the church’s 21,000-seat conference […]
1 day ago
A paramilitary soldier stands guard outside the first multiplex cinema of Kashmir in Srinagar, Indi...
Associated Press

Cinema opens in Kashmir city after 14 years but few turn up

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A multi-screen cinema hall opened on Saturday in the main city of Indian-controlled Kashmir for the first time in 14 years in the government’s push to showcase normalcy in the disputed region that was brought under India’s direct rule three years ago. Decades of a deadly conflict, bombings and brutal Indian […]
1 day ago
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a member of the Chinese honor guard unfurls the Chine...
Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: China marks 73rd anniversary in National Day

BEIJING (AP) — Spectators watched a masked, 96-member honor guard raise a Chinese flag on Tiananmen Square as the ruling Communist Party marked its 73rd anniversary in power on Saturday under strict anti-virus controls. The flag-raising at sunrise was one of the few National Day events planned after authorities called on the public to avoid […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
‘Tale of two borders’: Mexicans not seen at busy crossings