When a young Colombian and his family came to an opening in the wall that separates USA of Mexico Shortly after dawn, instead of crossing the threshold, they waited for hours for a border officer to intercept them.

The scene is repeated daily in this place where the border fence is literally interrupted, and where dozens of people from hundreds of 140 countries arrive, papers in hand, saying they are fleeing the crisis and violence in their countries.

“We don’t want to cross illegally, we want to ask for asylum,” said the 30-year-old Colombian minutes before the border patrol arrived, kicking up a cloud of sand in this dry area of ​​Arizona.

Due to Title 42, the pandemic restriction with which USA closed its entrances on the southern border to visa-free travelers, who seek asylum brave the desert, the river, the wall up to nine meters high or the currents of the Pacific to set foot on local soil and present their case to the authorities.

In 2021, more than 1.73 million cases were intercepted at the southern border by authorities, a record.

The issue is the focus of discussions at the Summit of the Americas this week in Los Angeles, with the expectation of reaching an agreement to address the migratory flow in the region.

However, the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were not invited by Washington. In retaliation, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, president of Mexicokey country in the discussion.

water in the desert

With the restrictions and dangers of the border, the opening in the wall near Yuma has become a makeshift port of entry for thousands of people.

The border authorities analyze case by case to define if they qualify to present their asylum request to justice or if they will be expelled under Title 42.

The scene is repeated dozens of times daily in the opening, from where on one side the crops of Yumaknown for its lettuce, and on the other, the Morelos dam in Mexico’s Algodones, called “molar city” because of the number of dental clinics there are.

The influx at this point is such that the authorities keep drinking water and bananas for the migrants who walk the last kilometers from the Algodones highway under temperatures of almost 40º C and with less than 20% humidity. For many, thirsty, reach USA tastes like water in the desert.

It is the border sector that registered the largest increase in intercepted migrants: more than 400% so far this year compared to 2021.

The breach in the wall is not the only factor, says Customs and Border Control officer Fidel Cabrera.

“We are very close to two international airports in Mexico, in Mexicali and Tijuana. It takes them one or two hours to come by public transport from there,” he explains in an interview with GLM.

“The type of migrants we see here now is different from years ago.” Most have the resources to travel by plane to the border and not by walking, says Cabrera, whose colleagues patrol the thousands of miles of border in this region every day, including the dunes that stretch to the west and over which the wall advances like a coppery snake

The authorities report another difference: 89% of the more than 140,000 migrants who arrived here in the last year qualify for stay and present your case to justice, whether due to family composition, nationality or risk.

“Everyone leaves”

However, with thousands of people arriving monthly at Yuma, this farming town of nearly 100,000 remains unchanged, says its mayor Douglas Nicholls: “Everyone goes to other communities. When they are released by the border patrol they have to have a family to go to. I don’t know of anyone who stays here for more than a day or two.”

The young Colombian who arrived with his wife and two young children hopes that the authorities will allow him to present his case to justice, and restart life in Denver, in the central region of USA.

Smiling shyly, he admitted to being scared shortly before being approached by the border official.

“I think no one leaves their house because they want to,” he said before entering the patrol car with his family. “If you do it, it’s because it’s your turn.”

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