Washington is seeking closer coordination with several Latin American countries to tackle a jump in migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East who it believes are trying to reach the United States from the south on an arduous route by plane, boat and through jungle on foot.
U.S. agents deployed to an immigration facility on Mexico’s southern border have vetted the more than 640 migrants from countries outside the Americas who have been detained at the center since October 2015, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security documents reviewed by Reuters.
The migrants often fly to Brazil, obtain fake passports there, and are smuggled to Panama before heading through Central America to Mexico’s porous southern border, according to transcripts of 14 interviews conducted at the center and other internal briefing documents seen by Reuters.
The U.S. agents’ findings come as Mexican immigration data show 6,342 Asian, African and Middle Eastern migrants were apprehended trying to enter Mexico in the first six months of this year. That was up from 4,261 in all of 2015, and 1,831 in 2014.
U.S. border apprehensions point to the same trend. Between October 2015 and May 2016, U.S. agents apprehended 5,350 African and Asian migrants at the U.S. Southwest border. That’s up from 6,126 in all of fiscal year 2015 and 4,172 in all of fiscal year 2014.
U.S. concerns about potential security risks from migrants using the unusual and circuitous southern route have been growing in recent years, following a string of Islamic State-inspired attacks in the West and the surge in Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s civil war.
By Julia Edwards for Reuters
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