In one recent week, agents in the Border Patrol’s 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 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) 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 Patrol’s 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 forest, where they are often robbed and held in government-run camps. They come from Cameroon’s English-speaking south with horrifying stories of rape, murder and torture since late 2016 by soldiers of the country’s French-speaking majority, which holds power.
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.