In migrant camps, anxiety and relief: ‘It was worth it. We are in America.’

In migrant camps, anxiety and relief: ‘It was worth it.  We are in America.’

SAN DIEGO — In the sprawling migrant camp that has sprung up this week on a patch of American soil between Tijuana and San Diego, a striking system of order has emerged despite a swell of anxiety and uncertainty.

Africans in the camp – from Ghana, Somalia, Kenya, Guinea, Nigeria – have a leader, a tall Somali man, who communicates with aid groups how many blankets, diapers and sanitary pads they need that day. Colombians have their own leader, as do Afghans, Turkish and Haitians.

Stuck in the same holding pattern as thousands of other migrants in border towns after pandemic-era migration restrictions expired on Thursday night, camp dwellers here had to make do with scarce supplies of food and water provided by volunteers and border Patrol.

Through metal bars, aid workers on the American side pass rolls of toilet paper, bags of Clementine oranges, bottles of water, packages of toothbrushes.

“Can we get the leader from Jamaica, please!” Flower Alvarez-Lopez, an aid worker at the camp, called on Friday.

A woman wearing a sun hat and pink tie-dye shirt slams her hand against the wall. Another woman wearing a beanie squeezed her full cheeks through the beam. “Can we get leaders from Afghanistan! Russia!”

As thousands of migrants flocked to the border this week ahead of the expiration of immigration restrictions known as Title 42, desperation, desperation and resilience played out in one place after another. And on Friday, hours after restrictions ended, waiting, uncertainty and resolution remained in place.

Thousands of migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande in recent days debate what to do next, while thousands of others bide their time in northern Mexico trying to figure out how they can cross, and when.

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

El Paso Mayor Oscar Lesser told reporters on Friday that about 1,800 migrants had entered the border city on Thursday. He said, ‘We saw a lot of people coming to our area last week.’ But since lifting Title 42 overnight, he said, “we haven’t seen any huge numbers.”

Shelter operators said it was too early to tell what might happen in the coming days, as most of those who crossed were still being processed by the US government. But he also said that the biggest spikes can be crossed in the crossing.

“The number of people picked up yesterday from the riverbank on the other side of the wall was significant, but almost everyone didn’t expect it was going to happen,” said Ruben Garcia, who assists migrants. El Paso Area. “We’ll have to see what happens over the next few days. There are many variables,” he said.

But while the numbers didn’t rise Friday, officials said crossings had reached historically high levels even before Title 42 expired. Leon Wilmot, Sheriff of Yuma County in Arizona, said Border Patrol agents had arrested about 1,500 people on Thursday, the last day that Title 42 was in effect, and were holding about 4,000 — a population devoted to the only charity in the city. Have done helping the migrants.

As hundreds were released from Yuma’s border holding facility on Friday, a fleet of charter buses sat idle in the parking lot of the nonprofit Regional Center for Border Health, ferrying migrants to the airport or to Phoenix. was waiting for For weeks, the group has filled around six buses with migrants every day. On Friday, 16 buses carrying around 800 migrants left Yuma.

In just a few days over the past week, more than 11,000 people were apprehended after crossing the southern border illegally, according to internal agency figures obtained by The New York Times, putting holding facilities by the Border Patrol over capacity. Was. In the last two years, about 7,000 people were caught on a normal day; Officials consider 8,000 apprehensions or more to be a surge.

A person familiar with the situation said the Border Patrol caught fewer than 10,000 people crossing the border illegally on Thursday, indicating a sizable increase occurred before Title 42 was repealed.

Outside a shelter in McAllen, Texas, Ligia Garcia contemplates her family’s next steps. She was excited to finally cross the Rio Grande, but with no family in the United States, and no money, she found herself in the same position as thousands of other migrants at the border with Mexico: waiting, while relying on the kindness of strangers.

“We will ask for help for now, because we have no money and no choice,” 31-year-old Venezuelan migrant Ms. Garcia takes her 6-month-old son, Roim, to a shelter run by Catholic Charities . “It was a big sacrifice to come here,” she said, recounting how she and her husband traveled with their two children through the jungles of Central America, then Mexico, to reach Texas. “But it was worth it. We’re in America.

While Mexicans and Central Americans represented the majority of immigrants entering the United States for decades, Venezuelans were crossing the southern border in greater numbers than ever before, and they have recently outnumbered immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. reduced the number of

But because mass immigration from Venezuela is a relatively new phenomenon, Venezuelans often lack a network of relatives or friends who can support them in the United States, and they often have little more than the clothes they are wearing. Also doesn’t happen, like Ms. Garcia, expat in McAllen.

“I’ve been doing this for more than 45 years. I’ve never seen a population as challenging as Venezuelans because a lot of them don’t have people in the United States to receive them,” Mr. Garcia Said, who runs the Annunciation House in El Paso.

During this, the migrants were scrambling for information. Olinex Casseus, 58, sat on the sidewalk with his wife and daughter in Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, on Friday morning as they tried, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, to apply for asylum with the U.S. using CBP’s app. Appointment time was fixed. Migration Agent.

“We want to do everything completely legally,” said Mr. Cassius, who fled Haiti for Puebla, Mexico, after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. He said he hopes to find a new life in Miami if he is able to cross over. “But everything is delayed now, and the rules are constantly changing,” he said. “I guess that means we’re going to continue to wait.”

At the stop between San Diego and Tijuana, the needs and tensions began to mount in recent days. Roughly 1,000 people have crossed a barrier separating the cities in the past week, and most are stuck behind another wall awaiting processing by US authorities. The area between the two border walls is technically on US soil but is considered no man’s land.

Blankets are the most sought after item as nights turn uncomfortably cold for the hundreds of people sleeping outside. But there aren’t enough, so volunteers have tried to limit donations to families with young children.

On Thursday night, when the blankets were being distributed, the migrants started shouting at each other, believing that one group was taking blankets for those who did not have small children. Aid workers stepped in to break up the fight.

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

A Colombian man, wearing a tattered blue hoodie, arrived at the camp with his family on Friday morning after smugglers took them through a hole in a wall on the Mexican side. Seeing rows of migrants lying on dirt and tents made of mylar blankets spread across the camp, he was unsure how to secure food or a tarpaulin.

He contacted Ms. Alvarez-Lopez for supplies. “Go find Jesus,” she told him, apparently referring to a fellow expatriate, and he left in desperation. “My only Jesus is up there,” he said, pointing to the sky.

eileen sullivan And Jack Healy Contributed reporting.

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