Undocumented immigrants try to rush into US in ‘waves,’ spark showdown with CBP agents

pharrThe Pharr International Bridge in 2001

 

One of the biggest ports of entry along the US-Mexico border had to be shut down on Friday after a group of undocumented immigrants — nearly 50 of them — attempted to rush into the United States in “waves,” according to federal officials.

The mad dash went down at the Pharr International Bridge in Texas at about 4 a.m., officials said, and sparked a showdown with Customs and Border Protection agents.

“A group of 47 undocumented individuals attempted to illegally enter the United States in three waves,” the agency said in a statement, according to KGBT.

“Ignoring commands to stop, the group suddenly rushed the temporary barricades, bent metal poles and disabled the concertina wire affixed to the barrier.”

Several CBP officers were assaulted during the mayhem but expected to be OK. They had to deploy tear gas and pepper balls in order to stop the group.

At least 16 of the immigrants were taken into custody by federal officers. Mexican authorities took the remaining individuals.

 

 

Record number of African migrants coming to Mexican border

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 Spanishspeaking 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 Patrols 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 2,000mile (3,200kilometer) 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 Patrols 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.

On recent Saturday in Tijuana, there were 90 Cameroonians lined up to get on a waiting list to request asylum that has swelled to about 7,500 names. Also on the waiting list are Ethiopians, Eritreans, Mauritanians, Sudanese and Congolese.

Cameroonians generally fly to Ecuador because no visa is required and take about four months to reach Tijuana. They walk for days in Panama through dense jungle, where they are often robbed and held in governmentrun camps. They come from Cameroons Englishspeaking south with horrifying stories of rape, murder and torture committed since late 2016 by soldiers of the countrys Frenchspeaking majority, which holds power.

A few days after the big groups of African immigrants were apprehended in Texas, federal officials dropped off dozens of them in San Antonio. Officials in the Texas city sent out a plea for Frenchspeaking volunteers for translating work and most importantly, making our guests feel welcome.

Many were bused to Portland, Maine, about as far as one can get from the Mexican border and still be in the continental United States. Word has spread among migrants that the city of 67,000 is a welcoming place. Somali refugees were resettled in Portland in the 1990s.

A total of 170 asylum seekers arrived in recent days. Hundreds more are expected in an influx that City Manager Jon Jennings called unprecedented. With one shelter already full, a basketball venue called the Portland Exposition Building was converted into an emergency shelter.

Portland officials tweeted Thursday that rumors some of the migrants are carrying the Ebola virus are patently false, and said that as asylum seekers, they are in the United States legally.

On Thursday afternoon, families in the Expo chatted in French and Portuguese as children kicked a soccer ball near rows of cots. One of the men, 26yearold Prince Pombo, described himself as a prodemocracy activist and said he had fled his native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, because of political oppression. He went to neighboring Angola, then flew to Brazil. There, he met a local woman and they had a baby they named Heaven. Now 16months old, she giggled as she played with her mother in the Expo. Pombo said his journey from Congo to America took three years.

More migrants are on the way. Mexico is on pace to triple the number of African immigrants it is processing this year, up from 2,100 in 2017.

Mbi Deric Ambi, from the Englishspeaking part of Cameroon, is among them. In a recent interview in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula, Ambi said he was waiting for a document from the Mexican authorities that would allow him to proceed north to the U.S. He traveled overland through South and Central America after flying to Ecuador.

Human Rights Watch says 1,800 people have been killed and half a million have fled their homes in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon since late 2016. A United Nations official says 4.3 million people need humanitarian assistance.

We dont have jobs in the English part, the educational system is poor, they are looking at us as dogs, Ambi said as a crowd of migrants jostled outside an immigration center in Tapachula, waiting for their names to be called to collect their travel document. Ambi has been waiting every morning for six weeks.

We just have to be patient, because there is nothing we can do, he said.

The explosion in immigration to the United States from subSaharan Africa coincides with a steep drop in the migration flow across the Mediterranean to Europe after European countries and two main embarkation points — Turkey and Libya — decided to crack down. From Jan. 1 to June 12, only 24,600 migrants arrived in Europe by sea, compared to 99,600 over the same period in 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration.

But IOM spokesman Joel Millman doubts the migrant path for Africans has swung over from Europe to America.

Pombo, who was a teacher in Congo, learned in an internet search and by asking around that Portland is good place for migrants. He said his next step is to start rebuilding a life for himself and his family.

Id like to feel safe. Id like to build a decent life, he said. I need to start again.

Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon. AP reporters Elliot Spagat in Tijuana, Maria Verza in Tapachula, Mexico, contributed to this report.

 

3 dead, 8 injured when Border Patrol uses spike strip to stop fleeing pickup on I-8 near Boulevard

Cal Fire San Diego firefighters work at the scene of a crash that killed three people and injured eight, three seriously, on Thursday afternoon on westbound Interstate 8 near Boulevard. (Courtesy of Cal Fire San Diego)

Three people were killed and eight were injured when a pickup fleeing from Border Patrol agents hit a spike strip, veered onto an embankment and rolled Thursday afternoon on westbound Interstate 8 near Boulevard, authorities said.

Border Patrol agents gave chase to the Chevrolet Silverado pickup, which had two people in the cab and nine in the bed, about 4:25 p.m., CHP spokesman Officer Travis Garrow said. The truck crashed while fleeing at an “extremely high rate of speed” on the two-lane interstate east of Crestwood Road near the Golden Acorn Casino.

“It was spike-stripped by the Border Patrol, continued westbound, went up a dirt and rock embankment and rolled, ejecting either nine or 10 people out of the vehicle,” Garrow said.

A male driver and a female passenger were believed to be the only occupants seated in the cab of the truck, Garrow said. Nine men were in the bed, which had no camper shell or other type of covering.

According to a CHP incident log, witnesses reported the pickup was weaving in and out of traffic and passing other motorists using the center median and right shoulder at speeds of more than 100 mph.

Three people were killed, including the only woman, and the rest sustained moderate to major injuries, Garrow said.

Cal Fire San Diego said three of the victims sustained major injuries and five others suffered minor injuries.

Garrow said the truck’s driver was in Border Patrol custody Thursday night. Border Patrol officials said they were preparing a statement about the incident.

The ages and immigration statuses of the victims were not immediately known.

Both westbound lanes of I-8 were shut down approaching the Crestwood Road exit, and the interstate remained closed as of 7:30 p.m.

Motorists were being diverted off westbound I-8 and onto Old Highway 80 at Ribbonwood Road, several miles east of the crash. Vehicles were being allowed back onto westbound I-8 at Crestwood Road.

Border Patrol policy states that agents may get involved in pursuits only when the benefit outweighs any immediate danger created by speeding or other emergency driving techniques.

Federal officials have said pursuits involving agents are rare, but Thursday’s crash was the second in the past 16 months that resulted in three deaths.

The other triple-fatality chase happened in August 2017 after Border Patrol agents spotted a Black GMC Envoy that, according to an alert, was associated with an armed and dangerous man suspected of murder and human smuggling.

When the agents tried to pull the vehicle over, the driver sped off. The vehicle was traveling at high speeds when it went off Interstate 15 and into a Rancho Bernardo ravine, killing three of the four people inside.

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