As Others are Blocked, Colombians Reach US Through Mexico

NEW YORK (AP) — When his cellphone and computer accessories business was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Alvaro started thinking about leaving Colombia for the U.S.

The 55-year-old, who said he also faced discrimination in Colombia for his sexual orientation, learned this year that Mexico doesn’t require visas for Colombians. That meant he could easily fly to the U.S. border.

The 55-year-old, who said he also faced discrimination in Colombia for his sexual orientation, learned this year that Mexico doesn’t require visas for Colombians. That meant he could easily fly to the U.S. border.

Alvaro joined tens of thousands of Colombians fleeing one of Latin America’s most populous countries on a migration route that has rarely been used — until now.

Colombians were stopped at the U.S.-Mexico border more than 15,000 times in March, up nearly 60% from February and nearly 100-fold over last year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures. Many fly to Mexico City or Cancún and take a bus or another plane to border towns before crossing into the U.S.

Years ago, Colombians came to the U.S. on visas and later asked for asylum, said Andrés Daza, an attorney who works with the Colombian consulate in Miami.

But the Biden administration is pressing Mexico to get stricter. In April, Mexico imposed online registration for Colombians, demanding travel itineraries, hotel reservations in Mexico and departure tickets.

Alvaro found a way around the rules. A smuggler reserved him a hotel room and he flew to Mexico City. From there, he flew to Mexicali, across the border from Calexico, California. He climbed a border wall using a shaky ladder and surrendered to border agents. After being detained a few days, he eventually went to Miami, where he has nephews.

By CLAUDIA TORRENS and GISELA SALOMON
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