Wednesday, December 21, 2016

AZMEX I3 20-12-16

AZMEX I3 20 DEC 2016

40,000 Haitian, African and Middle Eastern immigrants expected to descend on U.S. border
STAFF REPORT Updated 5 hrs ago

An estimated 40,000 immigrants from Haiti, Africa and the Middle East are expected to descend on U.S. borders and try to cross illegally next year, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar said Tuesday.

The estimate comes from the Costa Rican ambassador to the United States, Roman Macaya, who is expecting to receive the immigrants in his country before they attempt to make their way into Mexico and, eventually, the United States, Cuellar said.

"Roughly 40,000 migrants from Haiti, as well as Africa, Asia and the Middle East, will enter Costa Rica through their border with Panama this next year," Cuellar said in a news release. "They will then attempt to work their way up to the U.S.-Mexican border. Currently, migrants in Costa Rica are blocked from moving further north by the Nicaraguan military."

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott also said that he had been briefed by state intelligence sources to expect an influx of Haitians and immigrants from Africa, particularly Somalia.

These groups of immigrants will add to the complexity of guarding U.S. borders, which are seeing record numbers of Central Americans pour into the United States seeking asylum because of violence in their home countries.

It could also prove to be an early test for President-elect Donald Trump who campaigned on strengthening U.S. borders.

"However, if the Cuban crisis this past year has shown, they will likely soon find their way to our border, putting additional stress on our already thinly-stretched humanitarian resources," Cuellar said, "not to mention our immigration judges, who are working through a backlog of over half a million immigration cases."

Cuellar was referring to an influx of Cubans who are legally entitled to enter this country as long as they do so on land, not waters. The net result of that law, which stems from tensions between Cuba and the United States that go back decades, is that many Cubans found a path into the United States through Cuellaer's hometown of Laredo.

"This past year, we struggled through a surge of approximately 56,000 Cuban migrants running up through Central America to our border, mostly through my hometown of Laredo, Texas, due to the archaic Cuban Adjustment Act policy and unprecedented benefits the U.S. provides exclusively for Cubans," Cuellar said.

"This was in addition to the swell of 137,366 Central American children and families from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Many of the Haitians arriving at our border were previously working in Brazil. However, due to the economic downturn in that country, they are seeking a path to the United States," he said.

"Many have learned from smugglers and through social media that when they arrive at a port of entry or get picked up by the border patrol to claim they are seeking either a refugee status or asylum for a credible fear of persecution in their home country. This allows them to be granted a "Notice to Appear" for an asylum hearing and they are either briefly detained or allowed to enter the U.S. on their own recognizance."


Numbers spike at local respite center
More than 7,500 passed through facility in November

MCALLEN,Tx- Over 30 immigrants from Central America are dropped off by bus at Sacred Heart Respite Center Thursday Nov.3 2016 photo by Delcia Lopez

McALLEN — As a group of migrants waited to file information and move onto the next stop in the United States, a woman Monday dropped off a donation of toys for children passing through the center. A stuffed animal started playing a song. A mother laughed next to her kids.

This was a quick, simple distraction from the reality at the Humanitarian Respite Center at Sacred Heart Catholic Church: more than 7,500 immigrants were processed in November, up from 5,600 in October, which was the busiest month since the center opened in June 2014.

The city of McAllen has spent a half-million dollars on local humanitarian aid since 2014. Other local entities have spent as much. But there hasn't been any reimbursement from the federal government.

The conversation about immigration and border security is constant, but doesn't seem to gain much traction nationally, at least enough to make a serious impact. Families are flooding the respite center.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, addressed this on Thursday at an event at the Anzalduas International Bridge, as did McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. Darling has often talked about the federal government needing to change its foreign policy in Central America, and until that policy changes, the families will likely keep coming.

"The mayor is right," Cornyn said. "He's dealing with the consequences of the federal government's failure to deal with these issues and some of them are just very huge. How do you restore our border and a way of life in Central America so people don't feel they have to send their children up through the treacherous journey through Mexico just to end up on our border here in the United States where we try to take care of them as best we can?"

The latest effort by the federal government was the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shifting $167 million from domestic health services to pay for the housing and care of unaccompanied minors. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who was also here with Cornyn, said on Nov. 30 that shifting the funds would not have been necessary if the Obama Administration had spent money he helped appropriate last year to aid Central American countries that are the source of most of the unaccompanied minors.

Cuellar helped lock in $750 million in appropriations to the State Department during the last fiscal year to provide aid to Central American countries, and he has been complaining for weeks that none of the money that was appropriated has been spent on what Congress intended.

A massive tent has been built by Customs and Border Protection near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge to handle the stream of migrants. The facility, which opened earlier this month, can hold up to 500 people and provide housing, beds, toilets and bathrooms.


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