As the humanitarian and security crisis at the U.S. southern border shows no signs of slowing down, reaching record high levels not seen in over a decade, the U.S. may be facing another surge. However, this one does not originate from Central America; instead, it comes from Central Africa. As the New York Times reports, in recent days, hundreds of migrants from Central Africa have caused border patrol and city officials already busy with one immigrant surge to scramble on a new and unexpected one. Mostly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Angola, men, women, and children are showing up at the U.S. border with Mexico after embarking on a dangerous monthslong journey across the Atlantic Ocean and through most of Central America.
New African arrivals showing up in San Antonio and Portland Maine has surprised and puzzled immigration authorities and overwhelmed local officials and non-profit groups. In Portland, a basketball arena has been converted into an emergency shelter for the African migrants and the rapid influx has depleted funds already appropriated for other groups. Officials are also attempting to tackle rumors of diseases and sickness spreading throughout the migrants as the DRC, and several other Central African nations are suffering the second worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history. So far, no immigrants who have entered the United States have shown symptoms or tested positive for Ebola.
Since June 4, over 300 African immigrants have been assisted by the Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio. This is just a small fraction of the overall number of illegal immigrants coming from Central Africa. Since October 2018, over 700 Central African migrants have been apprehended in Border Patrol's Del Rio sector, a desolate stretch of Texas border about 200 miles west of San Antonio. While African migrants have been apprehended for illegally crossing the southern border before, their numbers are typically very low, making the sudden arrival of more than 700 all the more surprising for Border Patrol officials. For reference, between fiscal years 2017-2018, a total of 25 Central African migrants were arrested in the Border Patrol's nine sectors on the southern border, as reported by the New York Times.
Border Patrol Chief, Raul L. Ortiz commented on the possibility of more Central African migrants to come:
It's definitely an anomaly that we have not experienced before, we do know there are some more in the pipeline. We're going to prepare as if we should expect more.
The New York Times states, while many of the Central American asylum seekers have solidified their travel plans to join relatives already in the U.S by the time they are released from Border Patrol custody, many of the Central African migrants have no relatives in the country, so they are released with no travel arrangements. Border Patrol has denied allegations that due to the migrants' lack of destination, Border Patrol officers are directing the Central African migrants to either New York City or Portland, Portland is noted for their acceptance of immigrants, and New York City is a sanctuary city.
San Antonio officials say that they have sent about 150 to 300 Central African immigrants to Portland, with the remaining traveling to Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New York City, and various cities in Florida and Iowa. Catholic Charities of San Antonio spent about $125,000 on airfare to send these migrants through the country, completely depleting a fund they had reserved to help migrants from Central America. According to the New York Times:
The Congolese spoke of fleeing violent clashes between militia fighters and government soldiers, widespread corruption and government-led killings. Some of them traveled to the neighboring country of Angola, then flew to Ecuador. From there, they said they had traveled by bus and on foot through Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to the South Texas border.
For more on this story, please visit The New York Times
Updated: Mon, Jul 1st 2019 @ 4:10pm EDT