SAN ANTONIO — For U.S. Border Patrol agents, life along the Texas-Mexico line is not about if they’re going to find people, but rather how many and where from.
“The majority of migrants that we're apprehending right now are single adults. And that is a little bit rare,” said agent Jesse Moreno, currently working in the Rio Grande Valley sector. “Last year, we saw primarily family members traveling with their children and unaccompanied juveniles.”
This week, the border patrol took journalists along to show us what they’re seeing in the field.
They came across two smaller groups while the camera was still rolling.
In one encounter, a woman told journalists she was from Mexico, adding she came to the U.S. to work and had a sister in Houston.
Another man said his family loaned him $14,000 to make the trip. He was hoping to work construction, saying gang violence made life dangerous at home.
According to the most recent data from Customs and Border Protection, nationwide in March, 159,900 people crossed our border for the first time, marking a 37% increase from February.
The government has said it’s been expelling many migrants under Title 42, a CDC health authority that allows Border Patrol to quickly remove people because of the COVID health emergency.
Recently, CDC officials announced Title 42 would come to an end in late-May, sparking celebration by human rights advocates as well as multiple calls to keep the measure because of the expected increase in migrant traffic.
CBP officials say many people cross the border again after being expelled, adding the agency experienced 221,303 encounters in March, a 33% increase compared to February. Of those, 28% involved people who’d crossed the border before at least once in the last 12 months.
Migration is a global phenomenon, said Marta Costanzo Youth, principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.
“Throughout the world, there are more than 95 million displaced persons. And that is a number that has doubled in the past 10 years. What we're experiencing in our hemisphere is not in isolation,” Costanzo Youth said.
The Biden administration said it’s been working on addressing the root causes of migration, in order to help establish safe places for people to live and work.
“Part of the answer to the challenge is really encouraging countries in the region to be part of the solution and to share the responsibility for providing protection and stabilizing populations who have already been displaced,” Costanzo Youth said.
“We're working with all kinds of stakeholders and governments, international organizations, multilateral development banks, to really help stabilize people who are on the move and help people find protection in place,” she added. “There's a vast array of people who, because of policies that we have put in place and programs that we have put in place, have been able to be stabilized in the region.”
Progress is admittedly elusive from the vantage point in the Rio Grande Valley, where groups of migrants are apprehended and expelled daily.
“It's hard to see that when the metric you're using is the number at the border,” Costanzo Youth said. “But there have been successes.”