Migrant Families Being Flown From Texas To San Diego, So They Can Be Sent To Mexico
Friday, March 26, 2021
Photo by Matthew Bowler
While migrant children along the Southwest border are no longer being expelled from the United States, the majority of families are still being removed from the country, within hours or days of arrival. Some are even being flown far from where they crossed the border, only to be walked over to Mexico.
“They don’t value our rights,” said Osman Velasquez, who fled Honduras with his wife and children. They were arrested at the border last week, near McAllen, Texas. After a few days in Border Patrol custody, Velasquez says they were put on a plane, and flown to California, where they were then walked across the border and left in Tijuana without any of their belongings.
“We weren’t allowed a single phone call, we couldn’t talk to our family,” he said.
Velasquez is now traveling with his family back to Monterrey, Mexico, where he had been staying before his family crossed. He said Tijuana was far too dangerous a city for his family to stay in while they considered their next options.
Julia Neusner, a lawyer with the organization Human Rights First, says this practice of flying migrants to other cities, then deporting them, is increasingly common. She said it could be in response to the decision by Mexican states like Tamaulipas to no longer accept families being removed by the United States.
“They weren’t given any information, had no idea they were being returned to Mexico,” Neusner told KPBS, after she met with several families that had been removed this way. “I asked a couple of the asylum-seekers, ‘Why do you think they transferred you here?’ And they said, ‘for punishment, they’re trying to punish us.’ Which is really heartbreaking.”
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection told KPBS that migrants were transferred to California because of capacity issues.
“Several Border Patrol Sectors have seen an increase in encounters,” a CBP spokesperson wrote.
“In order to process individuals as safely and expeditiously as possible, other sectors along the southwest border are assisting by processing these subjects at their facilities.”
Some migrants from the Yuma Border Patrol Sector in Arizona, as well as the Rio Grande Valley sector in Texas, are being transferred to San Diego.
As of the end of February, the amount of migrants arriving at the border in California had ticked up, but not as dramatically as elsewhere along the border.
While there were just under 600 more unaccompanied children in California as compared to last year, there were 6,000 more in just the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.
And in California, the amount of families apprehended was even down as compared to last year.
Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, says the rapid rise in the amount of children at the southwest border, is what lies behind the crowding in border patrol facilities in Texas.
“The number of unaccompanied child migrants arriving in January and February of this year have not yet reached the peaks of what we saw in 2014 or 2019, but what did set a record was the increase, the amount of difference between the amount of children who arrived in January and arrived in February,” she said. “That difference is what set the record.”
Right now, Border Patrol stations in San Diego are not experiencing similar crowding, but that could change, as more families are flown here and then deported.
In Tijuana, many families are waiting in El Chaparral plaza, for their chance to claim asylum in the U.S. In an effort to dissuade migrants from coming to the southern border, the U.S. government has sent out audio messages, telling asylum-seeker to go home or seek shelter elsewhere, away from the border.
“I have an important message for those migrants who wish to enter the United States on an irregular basis. Coming to the border or waiting in a camp, as in El Chaparral, will not give them priority access to apply for asylum or to enter the United States,” said one message in Spanish distributed via Whatsapp, recorded by former Mexican Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, who’s now a special assistant to President Biden.
But for Marjorie Rosales, who has camped out with her young daughter in El Chaparral for five weeks, there is no home to go to. She says she can’t go back to Honduras, has no money to pay rent for an apartment, and that shelters in Tijuana are full.
“What else can I do?” she asked after listening to the message from the U.S. government. “It’s like Russian roulette for what happens to us here. All I can do is hope that god touches their hearts.”
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