SAN DIEGO — In the vast immigrant camp that sprang up this week on a patch of American land between Tijuana and San Diego, an astonishing system of order has emerged, even as anxiety and uncertainty mount.
The Africans in the camp — from Ghana, Somalia, Kenya, Guinea and Nigeria — have one leader, a tall Somali man, reaching out to aid groups about how many blankets, diapers and sanitary pads they need for that day. The Colombians have their own leader, as do the Afghans, Turks and Haitians.
Stuck in the same confinement pattern as thousands of other migrants in towns along the border after pandemic-era immigration restrictions ended Thursday night, camp residents here have had to contend with scarce supplies of food and water provided by volunteers and border guards.
Through metal bars, aid workers on the American side pass through rolls of toilet paper, bags of clementine oranges, water bottles, and bundles of toothbrushes.
“Can we get the Commander from Jamaica, please!” Zahra Alvarez Lopez, an aid worker in the camp, called out on Friday.
It was a woman in a sun hat and a pink tie-dye shirt with her hand poking through the wall. Another woman in a beanie presses her cheeks completely through the beams. “Can we bring the commander in from Afghanistan! Russia!”
With thousands of immigrants arriving at the border this week before the immigration restrictions known as Title 42 expire, frustration, desperation and resilience have surfaced in one place after another. And on Friday, hours after the restrictions ended, the wait, the uncertainty and the resolve continued one place after another.
Thousands of migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande in recent days have been debating what to do next, while thousands more have spent their time in northern Mexico, trying to understand how and when they might also cross.
Officials in the border towns were also facing uncertainty, as they tried to anticipate how policy changes would occur.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Lesser told reporters Friday that about 1,800 immigrants entered the border city on Thursday. “We’ve seen a lot of people come to our neighborhood in the last week,” he said. But since raising Title 42 overnight, he said, “we haven’t seen any big numbers.”
Shelter operators have reported that it is too early to tell what could unfold in the coming days, as most of the people who have crossed are still being processed by the US government. But they also said that the largest spikes in the crossings may have passed.
said Ruben Garcia, director of the Home of the Annunciation, which helps immigrants in the El Paso area. “We have to see what happens in the next few days. There are many variables,” he said.
But while the numbers didn’t spike Friday, officials said the crossings reached historically high levels in the days leading up to Title 42’s end. Border Patrol agents arrested about 1,500 people Thursday, said Sheriff Leon Wilmott, of Yuma County, Arizona. It was the last day that Title 42 was in effect, and they were holding about 4,000—a population that strained the city’s only designated charity. Helping immigrants.
As hundreds of people were released from Yuma’s border detention facility on Friday, a fleet of charter buses sat in the parking lot of the nonprofit Regional Center for Border Health, waiting to ferry the migrants to the airport or to Phoenix. For weeks, the group fills about six buses with migrants each day. Sixteen buses carrying about 800 migrants left on Friday.
On some days last week, more than 11,000 people were arrested after illegally crossing the southern border, according to internal agency data obtained by The New York Times, increasing capacity in detention facilities run by the Border Patrol. Over the past two years, about 7,000 people They were caught on an ordinary day; Officials consider 8,000 or more concerns an increase.
Fewer than 10,000 people who crossed the border illegally were caught by Border Patrol Thursday, a person familiar with the situation said, indicating a significant increase before Title 42 was lifted.
Outside a shelter in McAllen, Texas, Ligia Garcia pondered her family’s next steps. She was elated to finally be able to cross the Rio Grande, but with no family in the US, no money, they found themselves in the same position as thousands of other immigrants along the border with Mexico: waiting, while counting on the kindness of strangers.
“We will ask for help right now, because we have no money and no other choice,” said Ms. Garcia, 31, a Venezuelan immigrant holding her six-month-old son, Roem, near the overgrown shelter run by Catholic charities. “It was a huge sacrifice getting here,” she said, describing how she and her husband traveled with their two children through the jungles of Central America, then Mexico, to get to Texas. “But it was worth it. We are in America.”
While Mexicans and Central Americans for decades accounted for the majority of immigrants seeking entry to the United States, Venezuelans have been crossing southern borders in greater numbers than ever before, and they have recently dwarfed the numbers of immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
But because large-scale emigration from Venezuela is a relatively new phenomenon, Venezuelans often lack networks of relatives or friends who can help them in the United States, and often arrive with nothing but the clothes they wear, like Ms. Garcia, an immigrant in McAllen.
“I’ve been doing this for more than 45 years. I’ve never seen a challenge for a population like Venezuelans because so many of them don’t have people to receive them in the United States,” said Mr. Garcia, who runs the Annunciation House in El Paso.
Meanwhile, immigrants were scrambling for information. Olinex Casseus, 58, was sitting on the sidewalk Friday morning in Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, with his wife and daughter as he tried, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, to use a CBP app to set up an asylum appointment with the United States. immigration agents.
“We want to do everything legally,” said Mr. Cassos, who fled Haiti for Puebla, Mexico, after the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. He said he hopes to make a new life in Miami if they can get through. “But it’s all overdue now, and the rules are constantly changing,” he added. “I guess that means we keep waiting.”
Camped between San Diego and Tijuana, needs and tensions have begun to mount in recent days. Nearly 1,000 people jumped one barrier separating the cities in the past week, most of them stuck behind another while they waited to be processed by US officials. The area between the two border walls is technically on US soil but is considered no man’s land.
Blankets are the most requested item, as nights get uncomfortably cold for the hundreds of people sleeping outdoors. But there aren’t enough, so volunteers have tried to limit donations to families with young children.
On Thursday evening, as blankets were being distributed, the migrants started shouting at each other, thinking that one group was carrying blankets for people without young children. Aid workers intervened to break up the fighting.
“People are cold, hungry, desperate, destitute, nervous,” said Adriana Jasso, a volunteer with the American Friends Service Committee.
A Colombian man in a tattered blue jacket arrived at the camp with his family Friday morning after smugglers led them through a hole in the wall on the Mexican side. Seeing the tents made of mylar blankets strewn across the camp and the rows of migrants lying on the dirt, he wasn’t sure how to secure food or tarps.
He approached Mrs. Alvarez Lopez to ask for supplies. “Go find Jesus,” she tells him, apparently referring to a fellow immigrant, and he walks away angrily. “Only Jesus is there,” he said, pointing to heaven.
Eileen Sullivan And Jack Healy Contribute to the preparation of reports.
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