The floodgates opened for illegal border crossings in fiscal 2019.
During that year, Border Patrol apprehended more than 850,000 illegal crossers along the southern border. The largest numbers came from the obvious countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Those four countries made up 91 percent of apprehensions for the year, which is on par with recent years.
However, a sharp increase in illegal crossings from several other countries—including Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti—is a new trend.
In fiscal 2019, Border Patrol apprehended almost 18,000 Brazilians on the southern border. In the previous year, however, only about 1,500 were apprehended, which was just above the average for the previous 12 years.
The vast majority (almost 95 percent) apprehended in fiscal 2019 crossed into El Paso, Texas.
To help mitigate the influx, the Department of Homeland Security expanded its Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program to include Brazilians at the end of January 2020. The program, also known as Remain in Mexico, began a year ago and had only applied to Central Americans.
Under the program, aliens are sent back to Mexico to await their immigration court proceedings—rather than just being released directly into the United States to live for years until their court cases are complete.
The program has been a pivotal factor in the dramatic drop in illegal crossings of Central Americans over the past six months.
Cubans, Africans, Chinese
Cubans, who have traditionally made it into the United States via coastal routes, are now heading through the U.S.–Mexico border. The same is true for Haitians, who have traditionally first traveled to Puerto Rico, rather than taking the overland route.
In fiscal year 2018, only 194 Cubans were apprehended by Border Patrol—107 of them along the coast, 74 on the southwest border, and 13 on the northern border.
In fiscal 2019, almost 12,000 Cubans were apprehended; all but 153 were along the southern border.
The trend is ongoing, with an even higher uptick in the first months of fiscal year 2020, which began on Oct. 1, 2019.
“The apprehension of migrants from countries such as Brazil, Haiti, China, and countries of Africa have increased significantly this fiscal year ,” said Del Rio Sector Chief Raul Ortiz, who has also just been tapped as deputy Border Patrol chief.
“So far this year, I think we’ve had about 585 Haitians and a little over 500 from the African continent. You name it—from the DRC, Congo, Angola, and all other different countries.”
The number apprehended from Angola, Congo, and the Democratic Republic of Congo combined in fiscal 2019 was 1,025 people. However, the average total over the previous 12 years for the three countries combined was around eight apprehensions per year.
Last June, in the southwest Mexican border city of Tapachula, more than 5,000 Africans were at an immigration center waiting for paperwork to travel north.
Del Rio, Texas
Ortiz said the Del Rio Sector has become a favored crossing spot for many Africans and Haitians, but agents have arrested people from as many as 38 countries in the first few months of fiscal 2020.
“And we’ve seen some Chinese nationals. And what’s really odd about the Chinese nationals is they’re crossing in our Comstock area, which is our farthest west area, it’s in the middle of nowhere,” Ortiz said.
“So we think that is certainly attributed to a smuggling organization that’s recruiting them. And then, of course, we’ve seen folks from Afghanistan and all the other special-interest aliens.
“That’s been something that’s a little concerning to me, but we’re working on that.”
Ortiz said the information that agents have gathered from the aliens they apprehend suggests that they’re crossing in the Del Rio sector because it has been deemed a safer route on the Mexican side, and there’s a high possibility they’ll get processed quickly once on the U.S. side. He said it has also become a more established route due to word of mouth.
Most of the Africans and Haitians cross the river right near the ports of entry in Eagle Pass and Del Rio.