HIDALGO, Texas (Border Report) — A thick early morning fog Thursday provided what many migrants thought would be cover as they ran and tried to elude Border Patrol agents in South Texas, with one woman telling Border Report after she was caught that she didn’t want to go back to Mexico where there is so much crime.
With jeans muddy and wet, Sonia Martinez, 43, of Honduras, sat crying on the ground surrounded by Border Patrol agents blocks from a legal port of entry. “We don’t have anything,” she said, and that’s why she made a run for the South Texas border, crossing the Rio Grande after a month and a half of traveling from her Central American country to get here.
At 5 a.m., as Border Report came upon the early morning arrests in progress, Martinez sat beside six other adults as Border Patrol agents handcuffed them to one another.
Border Patrol agents said the migrants were all caught inside a flea market behind a steel fence, found by a canine unit that sniffed them out. Agents, who would not give their names, said the migrants were found hiding under various booths and some tried to run away from them.
Unlike the hundreds of migrants who are crossing with young children who are being allowed to stay in the United States under new policies enacted by the Biden administration, Martinez said she came alone. And when told she would most likely be deported to Mexico this morning, she said it was worth the try.
“I am safe with these men. I am calm,” she said referring to the green-suited Border Patrol agents from the Rio Grande Valley Sector who stood around the group sitting on the soft sandy soil. “But I don’t want to go back to Mexico. There is a lot of kidnapping in Mexico,” Martinez said in Spanish.
Border Patrol agents had them remove their shoelaces and gave them each a clear plastic bag to put in their belongings: Cellphones, phone chargers, wallets, hats, belts and coins. They are only allowed to keep in their possession any paper money and one ID.
A Border Patrol agent explained the removal of shoelaces is a standard field safety protocol measure because the laces can, and have been used in hanging incidents by those in custody.
Each migrant was given a blue paper mask and were asked to present ID cards to the agents who asked them their date of birth, and country of origin. The bags were taken from them when a transport van arrived about 15 minutes later. Each was frisked prior to being loaded into the vehicle, which was going to the CBP port of entry at the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge, just blocks away.
Manuel Gomez, 29, of Honduras, also said he crossed alone but left behind his wife and two children, ages 1 and 9, in his home country. He said the back-to-back Hurricanes Iota and Eta, Category 5 and Category 4 hurricanes respectively, devastated his country in October and November, and he headed north to find work to send money home to his young family.
“There is no work there for anyone,” Gomez said. “I don’t have money. I don’t have anyone to help me.”
This was his second time trying to cross without documents and he said he wasn’t going to try it again. He was resigned to the fact that he would likely be deported — probably within two hours — due to Title 42 travel restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus between Mexico and the United States.
The Biden administration has waived some of the Title 42 restrictions to allow unaccompanied migrant youth as well as asylum-seeking families with “tender age” children — those 6 and under — who cross in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas to stay in the United States while they wait for their immigration proceedings.
But all others, like Gomez and Martinez, do not qualify. And that has prompted adults to try and try multiple times to cross the border from Mexico into South Texas.
On Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection released apprehension data showing a 71% increase from February to March for the total number of migrants who were apprehended crossing the Southwest border, with most being adults who tried to cross into South Texas multiple times, like Gomez.
The number of unaccompanied migrant children doubled during that time period.
“The majority of the encounters on the Southwest border remains single adults. CBP continues to expel single adults and family units that are encountered pursuant to CDC guidance under Title 42 authority,” CBP officials said in a statement. In March 2021, the agency expelled 103,900 individuals under Title 42, and that included 28 percent who had been previously expelled, the agency reported.
To avoid that, an increasing number of migrants are now crossing with very young children. This included Nelson Fernando, 22, of Honduras, who was holding his 2-year-old son, Nelson Manuel, as he sat propped on the dirt ground up against a fence.
His son was sleeping in his arms and sucked his right thumb with his eyes closed. And they were among a group of eight adults and four children the Border Patrol apprehended before 6 a.m. about 30 miles to the west in a park in the small town of La Joya, Texas.
“It was very dangerous when we crossed,” Fernando said, his voice hoarse and he admitted he was thirsty and hungry. He said they waited for 22 days in Reynosa, across the Rio Grande, for the opportunity to cross and paid a smuggler or “coyote” $2,000, which his seven cousins living in the United States helped to scrape together.
The trip from Honduras took 45 days. He said Thursday was his first time trying to cross. He said he is “a victim of the hurricanes” and that he had no way to work or provide for his family. He was heading to Denver, Colo., to hook up with his cousins and hopefully find work.
He and the men sitting beside him all had wristbands, some colored blue, some white with orange lettering, some green, distributed to them by different cartel and human traffickers to designate them onto certain rafts and crossing points, they told Border Report. The wristbands read “entregas” or deliveries, in Spanish, and now that they didn’t need them any more, the men had ditched the bands in the dirt.
This influx in migration — especially among unaccompanied minors — picked up when Joe Biden took office, but it actually started in November when Donald Trump lost the election and asylum-seekers saw what they perceived as an opportunity to come to America. And experts predict it will continue as long as economic hardships and crime continue in Central America.
Juliette Levy, associate professor in the Department of History at the University of California Riverside, said migration is a complex issue fueled by economic devastation, natural disasters and is manifesting on the southern border as hundreds of migrants arrive each day — most with babies in their arms, like Fernando.
“What we are seeing at the border is a consequence of a confluence of factors. The Biden administration’s signaling that it will have more welcoming immigration policies is really only one of those factors, but I would venture that it is not necessarily the driving one. The fact is that in both Guatemala and Honduras, poverty is a main driver of migration, in concert with gang violence and paramilitary violence,” Levy said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com