Photo: The Associated Press
Record numbers of Venezuelans are crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as overall migration swells
Jun 28, 2021
Marianela Rojas huddles in prayer with fellow migrants after trudging across a slow-flowing stretch of the Rio Grande and nearly collapsing when she stepped on American soil for the first time.
“I won’t say it again,” interrupts a U.S. Border Patrol agent, giving orders in Spanish for Rojas and a group of 14 other Venezuelans to get into a detention van. “Only passports and money in your hands. Everything else – earrings, chains, rings, watches – in your backpacks.”
It’s a frequent scene across the U.S.-Mexico border at a time of swelling migration. But these aren’t farmers and low-wage workers from Mexico or Central America, who make up the bulk of those crossing. Among them are bankers, doctors and engineers from Venezuela, and they’re arriving in record numbers as they flee turmoil in the country with the world’s largest oil reserves and pandemic-induced pain across South America.
But when the housecleaning work she found dried up, she decided to uproot again.
“It’s over, it’s all over,” she said on the phone to loved ones. “Everything was perfect. I didn’t stop moving for one second.”
Last month, 7,484 Venezuelans were encountered by Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border – more than all 14 years for which records exist. The surprise increase is a harbinger of a new type of migration that has caught the Biden administration off guard: pandemic refugees.
Many of the nearly 17,306 Venezuelans who have crossed the southern border illegally since January had been living for years in other South American countries, part of an exodus of millions since President Nicolás Maduro took power in 2013.