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‘It Was Worth It. We Are in America.’

Asylum seekers, mostly from Venezuela, at a Respite Center run by a Catholic charity in Laredo, Texas, Friday, May 12, 2023. (Christopher Lee/New York Times)

SAN DIEGO — The sprawling immigrant camp that opened this week in the US territory between Tijuana and San Diego has seen a surprising system of order emerge amid growing unrest and uncertainty.

The Africans in the camp (from Ghana, Somalia, Kenya, Guinea and Nigeria) were led by a tall Somali man who told them how many blankets, diapers and sanitary pads they would need for the day. I am in contact with aid agencies. Colombians, like Afghans, Turks and Haitians, have their own leaders.

Falling into the same pattern of stay as thousands of other migrants in border cities after pandemic-era immigration restrictions expired Thursday night, residents of the camps here are volunteers and border-provided. They have to make ends meet with scarce food and water. patrol.

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U.S. aid workers pass through metal bars, rolls of toilet paper, bags of clementine oranges, water bottles, packages of toothbrushes, and more.

“Can you get a leader from Jamaica!” camp aid worker Flower Alvarez Lopez called on Friday.

A woman in a sun hat and pink tie-dyed shirt puts her hand into the wall. Another woman in her beanie pushed her cheek over her beam. “Can you bring a leader from Afghanistan!” Russia! “

As thousands of migrants arrived at the border this week ahead of the expiration of the immigration ban known as Title 42, feelings of frustration, despair and resilience unfolded on the ground. And on Friday, hours after restrictions ended, the wait, anxiety, and determination continued everywhere.

Thousands of migrants who crossed the Rio Grande in recent days debate what to do next, while thousands of others wait in northern Mexico to decipher when and how they can cross too. I was striving.

Officials in border cities also faced uncertainty as they tried to predict how policy changes would play out.

El Paso, Texas mayor Oscar Lieser told reporters on Friday that about 1,800 immigrants entered the border city on Thursday. “We saw a lot of people coming to our area last week,” he said. But since Title 42 was lifted overnight, “we haven’t had big numbers,” he said.

Shelter operators reported that it was too early to tell what would happen in the next few days as most of those who crossed were still being processed by the US government. But they, too, said Cross’s biggest spike may have passed.

“The number of people pulled from the banks of the river across the wall yesterday was significant, but not as many as anyone expected,” said the director of the Annunciation House, which helps migrants. said Ruben Garcia of El Paso area. “We’ll have to see what happens in the next few days. There are many variables,” he said.

But while that number didn’t soar on Friday, officials said the number of crosses hit a historic high in the days leading up to Title 42’s end.

Yuma County, Arizona Sheriff Leon Wilmot said border patrol agents had arrested about 1,500 people and detained about 4,000 on Thursday, the last day Title 42 went into effect. That population is straining the town’s only charity that specializes in helping immigrants.

As hundreds were released from a border detention center in Yuma on Friday, a fleet of charter buses idled in the parking lot of the nonprofit Border Health Regional Center, waiting to transport migrants to the airport or Phoenix. . For weeks, the group has filled about six buses with migrants each day. Sixteen buses carrying about 800 migrants thundered out of Yuma on Friday.

More than 11,000 people were arrested after one day of illegal crossing of the southern border last week, and border patrol-run detention centers were overbooked, according to internal agency data obtained by The New York Times. . Over the past two years, about 7,000 people have been arrested on a typical day. Authorities believe the arrests of more than 8,000 are surging.

Border guards arrested fewer than 10,000 illegal border crossers on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter, indicating a significant increase before Title 42 was lifted.

Outside a shelter in McAllen, Texas, Ligia Garcia ponders her family’s next steps. Although she was overjoyed to finally cross the Rio Grande, she found herself in the same situation as thousands of other immigrants living along the Mexican border, without her family or money in the United States. The kindness of strangers.

Garcia, 31, a Venezuelan immigrant with her six-month-old son Loim, near a bulging shelter run by a Catholic charity, said: “I have no money, no options, so for now I’m asking for help. ‘ said. “She sacrificed a lot to get here,” she said, taking her husband and her two children through the jungles of Central America and then Mexico to Texas. She told me how she was. “But it was worth it. We are in America.”

For decades, Mexicans and Central Americans have been the majority of immigrants seeking entry into the United States, but the number of Venezuelans crossing the southern border has never been higher, most recently in Guatemala and Honduras. , outnumbers immigrants from El Salvador.

But because large-scale immigration from Venezuela is a relatively new phenomenon, Venezuelans often lack a network of relatives and friends to support them in the U. I often arrive late. McAllen.

“I’ve been doing this job for over 45 years. I’ve never seen a nation more challenged than Venezuelans because many of them have no one in the United States to take them in,” El Paso said. said Ruben Garcia, who runs the Annunciation House at

Meanwhile, immigrants were fighting for information. Olinex Caseus, 58, sat with his wife and daughter on a sidewalk in Piedras Negras, across the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Friday morning, trying to book an asylum claim using the Border Patrol app. I tried many times but failed. US immigration agent.

“We want to do everything completely legal,” said Caseus, who fled Haiti to Puebla, Mexico, after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. He said that if he could cross Miami, he would like to build a new life there. “But now it’s all too late and the rules are changing all the time,” he added. “I think that means we keep waiting.”

In the camp between San Diego and Tijuana, needs and tensions have started to rise in recent days. About 1,000 people have jumped over the barriers that separate the cities in the past week, but most remain trapped behind another wall awaiting processing by U.S. authorities. The area between the two border walls is technically US territory, but is considered no-man’s land.

Blankets are the most in-demand item because the nights are uncomfortably cold for the hundreds of people sleeping outdoors. But there isn’t enough, so volunteers are trying to limit donations to families with young children.

On Thursday night, while blankets were being distributed, migrants began shouting at each other, believing a group was robbing them for young, childless people. Aid officials intervened to quell the fighting.

“People are cold, hungry, desperate, destitute and nervous,” said Adriana Jasso, a volunteer with the American Friends Service Committee.

A Colombian man in a tattered blue hoodie arrived with his family at the camp on Friday morning after smugglers lured him through a hole in the wall on the Mexican side. Looking at tents made of mylar blankets spread throughout the camp and rows of migrants lying on the dirt, he didn’t know how to get food and tarps to set up.

He asked Alvarez Lopez for supplies. “Go find Jesus,” she told him, apparently referring to her fellow immigrants, and he walked away indignantly. “My one and only Jesus is there,” he said, pointing to the sky.

Circa 2023 New York Times


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