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Border Patrol reports unusually large groups of migrants from Brazil, Venezuela

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The San Diego area Border Patrol says it arrested two people during an operation targeting a human smuggling organization allegedly responsible for bringing large groups of mostly Venezuelan and Brazilian migrants to the Tijuana-San Diego border.

The operation began after Border Patrol agents began encountering “unusually sized” groups of migrants from Brazil, Venezuela and Portugal, the agency said.

Overall, the number of migrants taken into U.S. custody along the border with Mexico decreased for the third month in a row in October, after a sharp increase this summer, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data released Nov. 15. CBP reported more than 164,000 apprehensions along the entire U.S.-Mexico border in October, which is a 23% drop from July.

Large groups of people from Brazil and Venezuela began arriving in Tijuana earlier this fall, according to José María García, the director of the Juventud 2000 shelter in the Zona Norte neighborhood of Tijuana.

García said on Nov. 11 a group of approximately 150 Brazilians and Venezuelans arrived at Juventud 2000, only asking for food before calling for taxis to leave the shelter located right next to the border. He said a language barrier prevented him from fully interviewing members of the group.

“These 150 arrived, and within hours, they were already gone, leaving in several taxis that they requested themselves to travel around the city. They said that they were going to stay in some hotels and apartments that they already had already set up,” he said.

Between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, San Diego Border Patrol says it detained five groups of migrants, mostly from Brazil and Venezuela, that were respectively 43, 49, 73, 84 and 93 people in size.

Agents arrested two Mexican nationals on Nov. 4 after discovering 75 people from Brazil, Venezuela, and Portugal locked inside a box truck, according to Border Patrol. CBP did not respond to a question Saturday about where the arrest took place.

Also in early November, the Mexican National Guard and the National Migration Institute announced it stopped a Transportes Amparo truck on the Tijuana side of the border that had a group of 58 migrants from Brazil, 16 people from Venezuela and one person from Portugal hiding in the back of the truck.

“Partnerships with the government of Mexico continue to play a vital role in combating smugglers who exploit individuals for monetary gain,” said Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke. “We thank them for their support and will continue our joint-effort to bring these criminals to justice.”

Before the Oct. 28 investigation, San Diego agents say they were already encountering an increasing number of “unusual sized migrant groups” ranging from approximately 50 to 90 people, the agency said.

For example, on Oct. 27, agents saw a box truck dropping off a group of individuals on the south side of the international border fence. That group entered the United States through a compromised drainage tube, agents said. Agents said they detained 67 men, women and children from both Brazil and Venezuela.

On Oct. 26, agents saw two groups of migrants that illegally entered the United States through a compromised sewer grate. The first group consisted of 86 Brazilian nationals. A few hours later, the second group, consisting of 69 Brazilian nationals, was detained at the same location. Both groups consisted of men, women and children.

On Oct. 23, agents observed a group of migrants entering the United States through a drainage tube three miles west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Agents found 72 men, women and children. Every person in the group was determined to be from either Brazil or Venezuela.

Since 2014, at least 5.6 million Venezuelans, or more than 18% of the population, have fled their country because of hunger, crime, deteriorating public services and violent instability, including human rights violations by state security forces, according to National Geographic. Most of those people have headed south, not north, but Mexico has also experienced historic highs of undocumented people — 147,000 between January to August — which is triple that of 2020, according to the country’s migration agency.

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© 2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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