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.
The “poor huddled masses” coming across the southern border may not be so poor after all.
Swiss journalist Urs Gehriger recently visited African migrants who breached the border and hung out on the streets of San Antonio, Texas, waiting to go elsewhere in the country, and he met hostility from people who didn’t want to share details about their experiences, conflicted each other, and had rolls of $100 bills.
EAGLE PASS, Texas — Some Border Patrol agents in Texas are concerned about exposure to Ebola by a migrant fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the United States.
But more of them are worried about other illnesses frequently popping up among detainees at stations across the southern border, according to union representatives.
Border Patrol’s holding facilities in the Del Rio and El Paso sectors, or regions, are inundated with sick detainees, as well as sick agents.
Jon Anfinsen is a National Border Patrol Council vice president and based in Del Rio, which includes Eagle Pass, where most Congolese are arriving. Anfinsen represents approximately 1,000 agents who are based out of 10 regional holding stations. Anfinsen has been an agent 12 years and said the number of people in custody and subsequent illnesses among that population is “unprecedented.”
“Scabies, chickenpox — we had one case of the mumps here in Uvalde. I wanna say we had measles — plenty of the flu, plenty of colds, body lice, just assorted. And some of these things, they spread like wildfires when you get into a cramped holding cell. It happens,” Anfinsen said.