Eight family members aged 4 to 63 flew to Cancun to spend two nights at the Mexican beach resort. They then took another flight to Mexico's border to the U.S. and walked for 20 minutes to U.S. agents. After that, they were taken into custody and held for a night. They would soon be with a Utah friend within hours.
Flying to Mexico is an option for Colombians and others who don't require a visa to enter the United States. They can cross the border at night and surrender to U.S. agents once they have arrived in Mexico. They can avoid the dangers of crossing Mexico or other countries by foot and bypass strict U.S. asylum restrictions.
Although the U.S. has expulsed more migrants than 1.5million timesunder a Public Health Order in force since March 2020 to combat the coronavirus, it has not been implemented across the board.
Mexico welcomes its own migrants as well as those from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, under Title 42. Others nationalities can also be expelled, but the U.S. often won't fly them because of the cost and the strained diplomatic relations with their countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela. They are often released quickly in the U.S. to seek asylum.
People from Colombia and other countries are the biggest beneficiaries. They can fly to the U.S. border without a visa and then walk across.
"At my weight it's not so easy to get around as it used be," smiled Vallora, 59-year-old refugee from violence in Bucaramanga. She spoke outside Yuma, where a health-care provider tested the migrants for COVID-19. Then she drove them to Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport on chartered buses.
Mexico has begun to require visas from more countries, a move that is being made under pressure from the United States. This could delay or eliminate the possibility of crossing the border. They may have to travel illegally overland as an alternative.
Mexico required visas for Brazilians, Ecuadoreans, and Venezuelans last year. Mexico's Interior Department stated that the latest move was in response to a tenfold rise in Venezuelans travelling "in an irregular way to a third nation," clearly referring to the United States.
U.S. officials stopped Venezuelans 25,000 Times at the border in December. This was more than twice September's count, and nearly 200 times greater than the previous year. In December, Venezuelans were second behind Mexicans in terms of the largest number of people they encountered.
People are asking for information on how to obtain a visa to Mexico and what consulates offer the fastest appointments. A WhatsApp group called "Venezuelans To the United States" is thriving. Some posts provide assistance for a fee while others warn of scams.
WhatsApp posted Jan. 23 a request for a guide to fly to Mexicali, Mexico, and cross the border. It costs $1,800 and includes food and lodging. According to the post, Mexican authorities will confiscate their passports at airport security and return them to passengers for $100.
Groups of 75-125 migrants assembled at dawn several days this month at Yuma's border wall. This sector is where more than three Venezuelans were stopped in December. Venezuelans, Mexicans, and Central Americans were absent. They were mostly Colombian, Cuban and Indian, as well as Haitian, Haitian, and Russian.
Venezuelans are still being freed, claiming they managed to sneak into Mexico just before the visa requirement was in effect. They also condemned the move.
Daniel Sandrea flew to Mexico with his 13-year old son Jan. 19, and planned to settle in Chicago.
Sandrea, 42 years old, stated that he fled Venezuela because he couldn't obey orders to harass and threaten opponents of President Nicolas Maduro. He was a Merida police officer. He said, "We are fleeing from a dictatorship," while waiting for a bus towards Phoenix at the Regional Center for Border Health warehouse in Somerton. Somerton is a sunny Yuma suburb with 14,000 residents whose Old Main Street buildings suggest its 19th century roots.
The U.S. authorities have stopped Colombians, many of whom are relatively well-off, nearly 4,100 times in December. This is an increase from the 73 times that happened a year ago.
Alejandro Pizza (34), arrived with a 16-member extended family this month, after realizing that his import farm equipment business in Bogota could not survive the extortion threats. They spent four days in Cancun before heading to Mexicali to hire four Uber drivers to take them to Yuma's border wall.
Mexicali is a popular destination for flights arriving after 10 p.m. Migrants will find a hotel and then take a bus or taxi to Los Algodones. This town has many dentists and optometrists that cater to American and Canadian snowbirds.
They then walk for about 10 minutes to Yuma on a concrete ledge at the Morelos Dam. Some hike further south to reach another opening. These two hot spots are linked by a dirt road. The border wall is lined with date palm trees, while the other side is lined with canals that supply water to bright fields of lettuce, grasses, and other crops.
Many migrants who travel overland to seek asylum are from countries that don't allow visa-free travel. Many Cubans start in Nicaragua, which is the nearest country they can fly to.
Haitians are poorer than others. Love Bre, who traveled by bus from Chile to Yuma on foot and via Chilean buses, made the error of following a Mexican man down a hill to Yuma's concrete path.
Bre, 35, said, "He even took mine watch." Bre held up his wrist while he entered the Somerton warehouse to take a COVID-19 testing and a bus ride to Phoenix. The bandit also stole $180.
Amanda Aguirre (chief executive of the health-care provider) said that approximately 15,000 migrants have been released by the U.S. authorities to the Regional Center for Border Health. Nine of the 10 migrants are on the bus quickly to Phoenix, while others are taken to shelters.
It is too early to predict if Venezuelans will be unable to travel due to restrictions. This could depend on the ease Mexico issues visas.
Flying to Venezuela is almost impossible because the U.S. doesn’t recognize Maduro’s government. The U.S. flew Venezuelans to Colombia last month without giving them an opportunity to apply for asylum. It stated that it would continue to do so on a "regular basis".
Karla Macaveo (28 years old) arrived in Mexico City, Venezuela six days before the visa requirements were implemented. She flew to Mexicali and took a taxi to Yuma to cross the border. Then she planned to fly to Delaware. It was nothing like traveling overland.
As she waited to board one the four charter buses to Phoenix, she smiled and said "This was so much simpler."