By Acacia Coronado and Gisela Salomon – The Associated Press
Eagle Pass, Texas (AP) – It cost Nerio two months and all he had to get him from Venezuela to the United States, traveling mainly on foot and watching exhausted immigrants being assaulted or left to die.
Likes An increasing number of Venezuelans, Nerio made a dangerous journey that included traveling through the infamous jungle of Panama, Darren Gap, and Mexico, where immigrants often face extortion and threats from government officials, hoping for a better life in the United States.
“We know no one wants us to make it here,” Nerio said last month. Eagle Pass, Texas, A city of 30,000 people, it is at the center of the increase in Venezuelan immigrants to the United States. He requested that his last name not be published, fearing for his safety.
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Last month, Venezuelans overtook Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second largest nationality stopping at the US border after the Mexicans. Nerio, who traveled with about a dozen others fleeing poverty and violence in Venezuela, was among them.
Venezuelans have been stopped 25,349 times, up 43% from 17,652 times in July and four times from 6,301 encounters in August 2021, Authorities said Monday, This indicates a remarkably abrupt demographic shift.
An estimated 6.8 million Venezuelans have fled their country since the economy collapsed in 2014, mostly to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the relative strength of the US economy since the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Venezuelan immigrants to head north. US policies and strained relations with the Venezuelan government also make it extremely difficult to bring them home.
Word spread in Venezuela as more family members and neighbors arrived in Texas and were released with notices to appear in immigration court or in Humanitarian parole.
“We hope that in a few years the problems in Venezuela will be resolved so that we can go back to our homeland, but until then we have to be immigrants and put up with what this journey will mean for us,” Nerio said.
The effect is reflected in the daily headlines. About 50 immigrants flew Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to the affluent island of Massachusetts. Martha’s Vineyard Last week were Venezuelans, as were five of the six men found by US authorities drowned in the Rio Grande Near Eagle Pass in early September.
Jose, who asked that his name only be used by his middle name out of fear for his safety, was on one of two DeSantis flights. He walked for nearly three months before crossing the Rio Grande in an inflatable boat and surrendering to border patrol.
While staying at an immigrant shelter in San Antonio, Jose met a woman who promised at least three months of housing, work, medical care, and free legal aid. She told immigrants they would go to Washington, Chicago, and other immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” cities.
“We imagined she was a very important person, that she had a lot of influence and she could really help us,” said Jose, who needed to arrive in Philadelphia to do the required check-in with immigration authorities at the end of September. “We believe in it. Ignorance of the immigrant.
However, when they reached Martha’s Vineyard, an area known as former President Barack Obama’s summer vacation spot, Jose, 27, said in a phone interview from a military base in Cape Cod: “Nobody was waiting for us, nobody knew who we were.” Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker moved them on Friday.
A Venezuelan family in Boston provided room and food for Jose, who was earning $20 a month as a garbage collector in Caracas and left his two children with his grandfather and grandmother. He will show ICE his new address and move his appointment with the agency to Boston.
“Now we are free, we can go anywhere we want,” Jose said. “I feel blessed by God.”
Venezuela has one of the highest inflation rates in the world and about three-quarters of the population lives on less than $1.90 a day, an international standard of extreme poverty. The minimum monthly wage, paid in bolivars despite the dollar-driven economy, equates to $15. Many lack clean, running water and electricity.
The pandemic has made jobs across Latin America and the Caribbean even scarcer, and made the United States more attractive as a place to live. At the same time, the strained US relationship with the government of Venezuela makes it so very difficult To expel Venezuelan immigrants under the Pandemic Act known as Title 42, which US officials invoke to deny people the opportunity to seek asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Mexico, under pressure from the Biden administration, presented Air travel restrictions To curb the emigration of Venezuelans to the United States, but then many of them turned to the dangerous road trip.
Cuba and Nicaragua have also sent more immigrants to the United States in the past year. Overall, migrants were stopped 203,597 times at the border in August, or 2.15 million times since October, surpassing 2 million people for the first time in the government’s fiscal year.
Asked about immigration on Tuesday, Biden said, “What I see now is Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. The ability to send them back to those countries is not rational.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded by saying that the United States was “trying to politically exploit the suffering of a group of Venezuelan residents who, in the face of sanctions and economic war, made a personal decision to migrate to other places.”
“North American imperialism tried to destroy and collapse our country and today Joe Biden appears attacking Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua,” Maduro said during an event reported by state media.
Salomon reported from Miami. Associated Press writers Regina Garcia Cano in Caracas, Venezuela, and Seung Min Kim in Washington, DC.
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