A group of Venezuelans waits to be picked up by Border Patrol after illegally crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas, on June 3, 2021. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
DEL RIO, Texas—On any given day in Del Rio, Texas, hundreds of Venezuelans wade across the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States. They’re carrying more belongings than illegal aliens from most other countries. One woman, who said she was a photographer back home, had her professional Nikon camera equipment in her backpack.
They arrive onshore and proceed to change into dry clothes, tossing the wet ones on the ground. Discarded shoes, many looking new, dot the pathway up from the river in two main locations. Some pull out toothbrushes and clean their teeth.
The carrizo cane next to the dirt road rustles as many find cover to go to the bathroom.
State troopers are usually onsite in a large dusty parking area to greet them and pass out water as well as granola bars to the hungry. The wrappers are often discarded on the ground unless a law enforcement officer points them to a trash bin.
Sometimes, a trooper will take a photo of the group, count how many there are, and find out where they’re from. Many of the new arrivals are quick to pull out their smartphones and call loved ones to say they made it.
Then everyone waits for Border Patrol to come scoop them up. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to more than two hours, as the agency scrambles to keep up with the overwhelming influx. Bags are tossed into the van and bodies pile in the back before they’re whisked to the processing center and then released.
“In just the last 7 days, our agents have encountered over 5,800 migrants from 29 different countries,” Del Rio Sector Border Patrol Chief Austin Skero wrote on Twitter on June 4. “During this same time, 63 smuggling attempts were caught on our highways.”
More than 119,000 illegal aliens from 70 countries have been apprehended in the sector this fiscal year (which began Oct. 1, 2020). Del Rio is a city of just over 35,000 people, while nearby Eagle Pass has about 30,000. The region is mostly ranch land.
The number of Venezuelans coming is immense. In this sector alone, with four months to go in the fiscal year, 10,864 Venezuelans have been apprehended by Border Patrol, according to Customs and Border Protection.
By comparison, for the whole of fiscal 2020, 135 Venezuelans were apprehended.
Many Venezuelans told The Epoch Times they flew to Cancún, then Monterrey, in Mexico, before crossing the river into Del Rio. Some came via Colombia.
A large portion intend to live in Florida—in particular Orlando, Tampa, and Miami—where they already have family members.
The surge has mainly occurred over the past few months. On March 8, the Biden administration said it would grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans already in the United States, allowing an estimated 320,000 people to apply to legally live and work in the country for 18 months.
Temporary protected status, which was created in 1990, grants citizens of eligible nations the ability to stay if they can’t safely return to their home country because of natural disasters, armed conflicts, or other factors.
Citizens of 12 countries are in the United States with temporary protected status. The largest number come from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, many with U.S. citizen children and spouses. Nationals from Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen also have temporary protected status.
The Trump administration had sought to phase out the program, arguing that it had effectively become permanent residency after repeated extensions, sometimes for decades.
As such, President Donald Trump didn’t grant temporary protected status to Venezuelans, but he did issue an order deferring deportation for a smaller number of Venezuelans on his final day in office.