outbrain
Close  

Record number of African migrants coming to Mexican border

/ 06:48 AM June 17, 2019

PORTLAND, Maine – Undaunted by a dangerous journey over thousands of miles, people fleeing economic hardship and human rights abuses in African countries are coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in unprecedented numbers, surprising Border Patrol agents more accustomed to Spanish-speaking migrants.

Officials in Texas and even Maine are scrambling to absorb the sharp increase in African migrants. They are coming to America after flying across the Atlantic Ocean to South America and then embarking on an often harrowing overland journey.

ADVERTISEMENT

In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants found walking in separate groups along the arid land after splashing across the Rio Grande, children in tow.

 Record number of African migrants coming to Mexican border

In this June 13, 2019 photo, migrant children play inside the Portland Exposition Building in Portland, Maine. Maine’s largest city has repurposed the basketball arena as an emergency shelter in anticipation of hundreds of asylum seekers who are headed to the state from the U.S. southern border. Most are arriving from Congo and Angola. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

That is more than double the total of 211 African migrants who were detained by the Border Patrol along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border in the 2018 fiscal year.

FEATURED STORIES

“We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area,” said Raul Ortiz, head of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector.

The immigrants in Texas were mostly from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Cameroonians have also been traveling up through Mexico and into the U.S. in larger numbers and seeking asylum at ports of entry.

On recent Saturday in Tijuana, there were 90 Cameroonians lined up to get on a waiting list to request asylum that has swelled to about 7,500 names. Also on the waiting list are Ethiopians, Eritreans, Mauritanians, Sudanese and Congolese.

Cameroonians generally fly to Ecuador because no visa is required and take about four months to reach Tijuana.

They walk for days in Panama through dense jungle, where they are often robbed and held in government-run camps.

They come from Cameroon’s English-speaking south with horrifying stories of rape, murder and torture committed since late 2016 by soldiers of the country’s French-speaking majority, which holds power.

A few days after the big groups of African immigrants were apprehended in Texas, federal officials dropped off dozens of them in San Antonio.

ADVERTISEMENT

Officials in the Texas city sent out a plea for French-speaking volunteers for translating work “and most importantly, making our guests feel welcome.”

Many were bused to Portland, Maine, about as far as one can get from the Mexican border and still be in the continental United States.

Word has spread among migrants that the city of 67,000 is a welcoming place.

Somali refugees were resettled in Portland in the 1990s.

A total of 170 asylum seekers arrived in recent days. Hundreds more are expected in an influx that City Manager Jon Jennings called unprecedented. With one shelter already full, a basketball venue called the Portland Exposition Building was converted into an emergency shelter.

Portland officials tweeted Thursday that rumors some of the migrants are carrying the Ebola virus “are patently false,” and said that as asylum seekers, they are in the United States legally.

On Thursday afternoon, families in the Expo chatted in French and Portuguese as children kicked a soccer ball near rows of cots.

One of the men, 26-year-old Prince Pombo, described himself as a pro-democracy activist and said he had fled his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, because of political oppression. He went to neighboring Angola, then flew to Brazil. There, he met a local woman and they had a baby they named Heaven.

Now 16-months old, she giggled as she played with her mother in the Expo. Pombo said his journey from Congo to America took three years.

More migrants are on the way. Mexico is on pace to triple the number of African immigrants it is processing this year, up from 2,100 in 2017. /gsg

Read Next
EDITORS' PICK
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: African migrants, Mexican border, Migration, US nbews, world news
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.