They aren’t asylum seekers when they go through multiple different countries and across an ocean.

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Undaunted by a dangerous journey over thousands of miles, people fleeing economic hardship and human rights abuses in African countries are coming to the U.S.-Mexico border in unprecedented numbers, surprising Border Patrol agents more accustomed to Spanish-speaking migrants.

Officials in Texas and even Maine are scrambling to absorb the sharp increase in African migrants. They are coming to America after flying across the Atlantic Ocean to South America and then embarking on an often harrowing overland journey.

In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector stopped more than 500 African migrants found walking in separate groups along the arid land after splashing across the Rio Grande, children in tow.

That is more than double the total of 211 African migrants who were detained by the Border Patrol along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border in the 2018 fiscal year.

“We are continuing to see a rise in apprehensions of immigrants from countries not normally encountered in our area,” said Raul Ortiz, head of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector.

The immigrants in Texas were mostly from the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. Cameroonians have also been traveling up through Mexico and into the U.S. in larger numbers and seeking asylum at ports of entry.

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