Updated: February 26, 2021
At least 1500 Central and West African refugees have massed in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from the South Texas city, hoping to seek asylum in the United States, but many remain in limbo while U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents slowly process only a handful of migrants a day, USATODAY quoted Mike Smith, a Methodist pastor who runs a migrant shelter in Laredo, as saying.
According to Mr. Smith, some of the African refugees have been there for more than two months, and while it may be easy to return migrants from Mexico home on buses, it is expensive for Mexico or the US to return Africans across the continent.
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In Mexico, African migrants are not well received or treated, especially because of the color of their skin, poverty and the language barrier.
“They don’t speak the language, they don’t have money, they’re not very well-received in Mexico,” Smith, the pastor said. “They’re in limbo.”
According to Smith, migrants escaping war and hardship from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and other African countries have streamed to the Nuevo Laredo crossing to try to enter the USA for years.
However, unlike other migrants, the Africans rarely cross between ports of entry as they choose instead to abide by U.S. and Mexican law and wait their turn at the border, Smith said.
And while migrants from Central America and Mexico often have contacts in the United States, African migrants rarely have a contact in the USA waiting to sponsor them, Smith said.
He said while Central Americans stay at his shelter for a few days before connecting with friends or families, the African migrants are usually there for a week or more.
He said when the Africans heard about caravans of Central American migrants headed to the USA, many of them rushed to the border in hopes of getting there first – only to be stuck in limbo.
“They’re getting the worst end of the stick,” Smith said, according to USATODAY report.
Although large caravans of Central Americans from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala arriving at the US-Mexico border have dominated headlines in recent months, asylum seekers from an array of other countries “have steadily arrived, posing a more complex challenge to immigration officials on both sides of the border,” USATODAY said, adding that about two weeks ago, “Border Patrol agents from the Del Rio Sector in Texas apprehended a group of 37 immigrants from the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including families and small children, as they attempted to cross into the USA”.
“Since the beginning of fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, agents across the U.S.-Mexican border have apprehended more than 27,000 people from 37 countries other than Mexico, according to Border Patrol statistics,” the report said.
Del Rio Sector’s apprehensions of non-Mexican migrants this year has increased by nearly 500% over the same period in fiscal year 2018.
“We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area,” Del Rio Sector Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz was quoted as saying in a statement. “Groups of family units from around the world are traveling thousands of miles just to enter the United States illegally to exploit our immigration laws.”