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Venezuelan immigrants cross the US border.

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — Marianela Rojas gathers to pray with her immigrant friends. Tears flowed as he crossed the slow-flowing Rio Grande and nearly collapsed on someone’s backyard. a few seconds ago she stepped on american soil for the first time

“I won’t say it again,” a U.S. Border Patrol agent interrupted, giving Rojas orders in Spanish and a dozen others to board an unmanned detention van. “Only your passport and money in your hand. Everything else—earrings, chains, rings, watches—in your backpack. Hats and shoelaces too.”

It was a frequent scene across the US-Mexico border during times of immigration. But these are not farmers and low-wage workers from Mexico or Central America. Most of the people who cross the border They are bankers, doctors and engineers from Venezuela. And they̵

7;re reaching an all-time high. As they escape the chaos of the country with the world’s largest oil reserves and the pain of plagues across South America.

Two days after Rojas crossed over. She left the detention facility and hopped on a bus from Del Rio, Texas, during a call to a loved one who didn’t know where she was, the 54-year-old said a few years ago. She escaped hardships in Venezuela. Leaving home with a once-in-a-lifetime income and stable career as an elementary school teacher for a new life. starting in Ecuador

But when the little chores she finds out of cleaning the house is over. She decided to uproot it again. This time without her children.

“It’s over, it’s over,” she said on the phone recently, crying when her toddler grandson wore a shirt on the screen. “Everything is perfect. I didn’t stop moving for a second.”

last month Found 7,484 Venezuelans by Border Patrol agents along the US-Mexico border — more than 14 years in total on record.

The astonishing rise has been compared to the mid-century influx of Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s communist rule. Biden’s administration is not careful: refugees from the plague

Nearly 17,306 Venezuelans have crossed the southern border illegally since January. Living for years in other South American countries has been part of the exodus of nearly 6 million Venezuelans since President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013.

While some are government opposition fears harassment and imprisonment. Most people are fleeing a long-running economic catastrophe. This is seen as power outages and food and drug shortages.

As the epidemic continues to spread in many parts of South America. They had to relocate again. They are joining more and more at the US border. by people from the countries they fled in the first place. Even many Ecuadorians and Brazilians arrived this year. The same is true for remote countries affected by the virus, such as India and Uzbekistan.

US government information It shows that 42% of all families found along the border in May. It has been hailed from places other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as the traditional drivers of immigration trends. Compared to just 8% during the most recent sharp increase in migration in 2019, border patrols recorded more than 180,000 encounters in May. This was the highest in two decades, which included repeated attempts to cross the border by migrants.

compared to other immigrants Venezuelans are granted certain privileges. which reflects their strong financial position. higher education level and US policy that failed to eliminate Maduro. but still Not all deportations are possible.

Most people come to the US near Del Rio The city had a population of 35,000, and they weren’t trying to escape detention. Instead, he was sent to be a border patrol officer to ask for asylum.

Like dozens of Venezuelans speaking to The Associated Press this month in Del Rio, Lis Briceno, 27, had previously migrated. After graduating in Petroleum Engineering She could not be employed in the oil fields near her hometown of Maracaibo. without showing allegiance to Venezuela’s socialist leader So she moved to Chile a few years ago. by finding a job with a technology company

But because of the anti-government unrest and the pandemic battering Chile’s economy, sales plummeted and her company shut down.

Briceno sells what she can. Whether it’s a refrigerator, her phone, her bed, to raise the $4,000 needed for a trip to the United States. She puts on her backpack and sets off with the Heart Lock Amulet she received from her friend to ward off evil spirits.

“I always thought I would come here on vacation. to visit various places You see in the movies,” Briceno said, “but do this? never.”

while Central Americans and others It can take months to trek. Store stuff on the freight train. and slept in makeshift camps run by cartels in the north. Most Venezuelans reach the United States in just four days.

“This is a journey they are definitely preparing for from a financial standpoint,” said Tiffany Burrow, who oversees the Val Verde Humanitarian Alliance shelter in Del Rio, where immigrants can eat, clean and buy. Bus tickets to Miami, Houston, and other cities with large Venezuelan communities.

They first flew to Mexico City or Cancun. where foreign tourists declined rapidly. But nearly 45,000 Venezuelans arrived in the first four months of 2021. “Travel companies” have cropped up on Facebook claiming to offer hassle-free transportation to United States of America in exchange for about $3,000.

“We are doing things here – under the table,” one smuggler said in an audio message that the immigrants shared with the AP. “You will never be alone. Someone will always be with you.”

The steep price includes guided transport from Ciudad Acuna, where many Venezuelans cross the Rio Grande River. The town, just a wet step from Del Rio, is of interest to both smugglers and migrants with deeper wallets. Because the city has survived the violence found elsewhere at the border.

“If you’re a smuggler in the freight forwarding business — because that’s how they view money, guns, people, drugs and everything they move as products — you want to move them through the safest areas. price,” said Austin L. Scero II, head of the Del Rio division of the U.S. Border Patrol.

But the number of armed smugglers has increased in the area recently, and officers who normally hunt criminals are tied to migrants.

The increase in the number of migrants is “Distracting tactics used by the coalition” to commit crimes, Skero said, as Haitians carrying small children Emerging from the tall Carisos bushes on the banks of the river.

when in the United States Venezuelans tend to travel better than other groups. in March Biden has granted temporary protection status to about 320,000 Venezuelans. The designation allows people from countries ravaged by war or disaster to work legally in the United States and provide protection from deportation.

Even if the newcomer does not qualify But Venezuelan asylum seekers — almost all of them do — are more likely to succeed. Partly because the US government Confirmed reports of political crackdowns. Only 26% of Venezuela asylum requests have been rejected this year. That compares to an 80% denial rate for asylum seekers from poorer and more violent countries in Central America, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. of Syracuse University

“I was able to write their asylum request almost with all my heart,” said Jodie Goodwin, a Harlingen, Texas-based immigration attorney who represents more than 100 Venezuelans. Highly educated people who can support themselves and tell their stories in chronological order and in a clean way in which judges are accustomed to thinking.”

Even Venezuelans facing deportation have hope. The Trump administration has broken diplomatic ties with Maduro upon the recognition of Juan. Gaidowa as Venezuela’s rightful leader in 2019, air travel suspended. even charter flights This makes its removal almost impossible.

meanwhile When immigrants leave Del Rio to connect with their loved ones in the United States They are confident that with sacrifice and hard work. They are given the opportunity to reject them back home.

Briceno said that if she was in Venezuela She will be paid 50 dollars a month. which is hardly enough to spend

“The truth is,” said Briceno, as he rushed to catch the bus to Houston. Her boyfriend got a job in the oil industry with good pay. “It is better to clean the toilets here than to be an engineer there.”


Follow Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman.

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