Apprehension of Brazilians at the US border falls amid a general record

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While the United States faces an incessant humanitarian crisis at the borders, with record numbers of migrants trying to enter the country without a visa, the number of Brazilian citizens apprehended for crossing irregularly plummeted between 2021 and 2022.

Data from the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) show that, from January to December last year, more than 3 million migrants were intercepted trying to enter US territory without legal permission, an increase of 33% compared to the 2.7 million registered in the previous year.

When analyzing people’s origins, however, those of Brazilian nationality show an inverse trend. While in 2021, 80,600 Brazilians were caught in this situation, throughout 2022 the number dropped to 37,400 – less than half.

One of the hypotheses for this, according to analysts, is what would be a return to normality in the migratory flow after a year off the curve; 2021 would have seen a boom due to the reopening of borders, completely closed the previous year as a measure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The downward movement was also observed for citizens of countries such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Ecuador. The record of red flags by American border agents, in turn, was due to the significant increase in the flow of migrants from nations such as Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela — in addition to Ukraine, where the war started by the invasion of Russia is about to end. one year.

CBP data include seizures that involve, in addition to cases of expulsion, referral to custody centers, in which foreigners await an evaluation or judgment in order to obtain asylum to remain in the country.

To enter the US irregularly, migrants often face high-risk situations over months — whether by land, at the border with Mexico, or by sea. Junior, 27, who asked not to have his full name published due to fears about the situation in the US, which is still irregular, opted for the latter route, sailing to the coast of Florida.

He left Matutina (MG), about 320 km from Belo Horizonte, in May 2021 and only managed to enter American territory on December 31 of that year. Júnior says that he hired a woman who worked as a “coyote” in Minas, to whom he paid US$ 6,000 (R$ 30,800 in current values) before leaving Brazil and committed to transferring US$ 15,000 (R$ 77 mil) when settling in the US and finding work.

The route started with a flight to the Dominican Republic, where the Brazilian waited four months for what agents defined as a good opportunity to try clandestine entry. During the crossing, on a sailboat with capacity for ten people, but on which 22 were embarked, the vessel’s engine failed. “I saw death there”, says Júnior, referring to the period for which he spent five days adrift, without food or water.

A cruise ship passing through the region spotted and helped the group, who were later apprehended by police as they approached the British Virgin Islands. “It was lucky, because it saved our lives, but it also started the nightmare.”

He says he was taken with the other migrants to a detention center, where they spent 45 days in a windowless room, without being able to notify their family. “I spent 24 hours a day looking at the bed. In the end, nothing else crossed my mind”, he says. “Then one day they released us and told us to leave the country [na verdade um território britânico].”

Júnior then found a way to return to the Dominican Republic, but, having lost confidence in the “coyote” he had hired, he decided to travel to Nassau, in the Bahamas —where “it is easy to find someone to make the crossing”, for US$ 8,000 (R$ $41k). There, after a few failed attempts, he managed to cross from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a four-hour journey by boat that ended at a pier of mansions.

In the USA, the final destination was Philadelphia, at an uncle’s house. “I had not taken a shower for a month, with dirty and wet clothes, but I managed to catch a plane — luckily the other passengers were wearing masks”, he says, recalling that the condition did not improve when he found his family members. “It was snowing in Philadelphia, but I only had one flip-flop.”

The Brazilian says he thought about giving up and turning himself in to the police a few times, but today he thinks the process was worth it. “It was sad, I suffered a lot, but it was a learning experience. Today I earn my money and I don’t think about going back [ao Brasil]”, says he, who works in the civil construction sector.

In that 2021, another factor that intensified the flow of apprehensions at the borders was the change of government, with Joe Biden taking over the Presidency in January, replacing Donald Trump. But, as highlighted by lawyer Felipe Alexandre, a specialist in this area at the AG Immigration office, the policy of open borders that was expected during the democrat’s administration ended up not happening.

Under the justification of containing the circulation of the coronavirus, Trump, who already had a strong anti-immigration discourse, implemented a policy that became known as Title 42, to expel migrants who tried to enter the border with Mexico, without them being able to ask for asylum. in the country. Biden tried to overturn the measure, but the Supreme Court kept it in place until the final review of appeals – which should occur by the middle of this year.

Pressured by the humanitarian crisis, the Democratic administration last month announced a policy of quotas, which will accept 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela every month, and the hardening of Title 42, by allowing the expulsion of citizens of those countries who try to enter irregularly and do not prove that they are able to live in the USA.

At the end of January, the Department of Homeland Security released data to try to endorse the effectiveness of these new rules. According to the agency, in the period of one week last month, between the 17th and 24th, there were 115 seizures of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, which could indicate a reduction in the flow, since between December 4th and 11th the number out of 3,367.

The fact is, immigration facilities on the border with Mexico face unprecedented overload. Month by month, CBP data point to new records of flagrantes: if in November there were 284 thousand people trying to enter the US irregularly, in December the figure increased to 301.6 thousand; January numbers have not yet been released.

“We know that people are being forced to move because of inequality, the climate crisis, violence, any number of factors. The number of people migrating across the Americas is something that many, many governments have never seen before,” said Amy Pope, US government candidate to head the IOM (International Organization for Migration), reported in December.

“To look at this problem by focusing on what happens at the US border is painting a small part of the picture. We need to involve all governments and communities in the region, to really address the issue from these various points of view.”

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