YUMA, Ariz. (NewsNation) — For many people trying to enter the U.S., it’s a matter of waiting unless they take the risk to slip over the border, a dangerous and sometimes deadly undertaking that oftentimes involves fording the Rio Grande.
Hundreds of thousands of people have arrived at the border over the last year, many of them fleeing from Central America. Once they reach the border, they can take different paths to try to enter the U.S.
Here’s a look at how migrants try to reach the U.S. and what they encounter:
Southern border crossings have declined since Title 42 ended, but officials in the Yuma sector have said they’re still seeing more migrants than they did two years ago.
However, they aren’t staying in the border town. The vast majority of migrants don’t stay in the community they crossed into and for many, getting to that point wasn’t easy.
Buses are departing the southern border daily for the Northeast and while many migrants are heading to New York, it’s a waiting game for others.
Migrants like Robert left Togo, West Africa more than a month and a half ago and are traveling alone. He’s hoping to connect with a friend in Indiana to start working.
“I see the peace in this country,” he said.
Robert said it was the most dangerous traveling through Colombia. He said he saw several people drown in the river once in Mexico. He also said they were robbed by the Mexican military at checkpoints.
He told NewsNation that he left home because he was being forced to practice voodoo and participate in religions he didn’t believe in.
“So if I live America, I stay America, I save my soul,” he said. “I’m happy; I have peace.”
However, Robert entered the U.S. illegally and he’s aware it may be harder for him to stay based on U.S. immigration laws.
Under Title 8, which encompasses laws concerning “Aliens And Nationality,” migrants can apply for legal pathways to enter the U.S., but it can also lead to deportation.
Under this rule, migrants who cross the border between ports of entry are processed and deported and banned from entering the U.S. for at least five years. If they reenter the U.S. unlawfully, they could face charges and jail time.
Yet, due to overcrowding at detention facilities, migrants like Robert are entering the U.S. from Mexico through several points of the southern border.
Many choose Yuma, where they’re processed at a border patrol station and released by agents. Then, they’re sent to the Regional Center for Border Health, the local non-governmental organization. Finally, they’re put on a bus to the Phoenix International Airport where they receive tickets either from the NGO or sponsors to fly them to different cities across the U.S.
“It’s not an Arizona problem, not a border problem; it’s a national problem because it’s coming into all of our neighborhoods,” said Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines.
However, migrants told NewsNation that the rules are inconsistent from sector to sector. A migrant who crosses in Brownsville, Texas, might be returned, but one who crosses in Yuma might be released with a notice to appear.
NewsNation learned that neither Border Patrol nor NGOs follow up with migrants once they’re released into the U.S. NGOs said sometimes families contact them and let them know they’re safe; otherwise, they don’t follow up or communicate with them.