A growing number of immigrants at the Mexican border don’t come from south of the border.
According to a UPI report, there is a “surge” in African refugees seeking entry to the United States through Mexico. In the last two months alone, a whopping 90 African asylum seekers settled in the city of Piedras Negras, which lies across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas.
African refugees entering U.S. through Mexico
A Catholic reverend and migrant advocate described to UPI the migrants’ long, circuitous path from Africa to the United States.
“After leaving Cameroon, Angola and the Congo they arrived in South America,” Rev. José Valdés said. “Then they made it to Guatemala, and after crossing into Mexico at Tapachula, Mexican authorities provided them with two-week transit visas so they could cross through the country legally to the United States, where they are seeking asylum.”
Some of the refugees, many of whom are fleeing war and religious persecution, travel for three years or longer. Valdés said that “at least 16 nuclear families with children” waited in Piedras Negras to make an appointment for asylum within the U.S.
“The Africans came to Piedras Negras because they heard it is a safer border city than the rest,” Valdés said.
While the trend doesn’t measure up with the millions of African and Asian refugees fleeing to Europe, a growing number of migrants from the Old World have been seeking entry to the U.S. through Latin America. Almost 3,000 African migrants were turned away at ports of entry along the southern border between October 2015 and August 2016.
Asylum waitlists grow as U.S. turns back refugees
Backed up waiting lists in the U.S. asylum system have led to a spill-over of refugees settling indefinitely in Mexican border cities like Piedras Negras this summer. The city even turned a gym into a shelter to accommodate the African migrants.
“The gym was only open for two or three days,” Valdés said. “Migrants could not sleep on the street as the temperature in Piedras Negras this summer was unbearable, more than 40 degrees [Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit] and no shade. Having migrants sleep rough can also lead to social problems.”
Meanwhile, the city’s two existing shelters have been overwhelmed. Officials contacted U.S. immigration authorities asking them to accept more applicants to lighten the burden, and the U.S. accepted more asylum seekers for about three weeks.
Still, the rise in African and Asian asylum seekers has prompted the U.S. to seek the help of Latin American countries along the route the refugees take. The region’s high number of asylum seekers, most of whom are Central American, has led to discussions between the U.S. and Mexico of a “safe third country agreement” that would involve Mexico taking in more refugees traveling to the U.S., although there are reports that Mexico has bristled at the idea.
Most migrants through the Mexican border now come from Central America. A “caravan” of mostly Central American refugees traveled through Mexico to the U.S. border in the spring, prompting a response from pPesident Donald Trump and much controversy.
While it’s a shame that refugees are fleeing violence at home, they can’t all come to the United States. Without a border, there is no country.