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N4T Investigators: Asylum Anxiety

TUCSON – Federal authorities say the surge of migrants, mostly from Guatemala and Honduras, illegally crossing our southern border shows no signs of letting up.

The sheer number of people coming across is now putting a strain on Border Patrol agents, and the entire U.S. immigration system.

“There’s been an increase of 34 percent just in the people that are asking for protected status,” Agent Jesus Vasavilbaso told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

For Border Patrol agents working along our nation’s southern border, encountering large groups of undocumented immigrants is now becoming a weekly occurrence.

“We’ve seen family units before, but not in these numbers, and the people who are asking for protected status has skyrocketed,” Vasavilbaso said.

Agents also say, in many of these groups numbering 300 or more, children make up more than half of the people.

“A couple of months ago, we had a group of 325 people. To put it into perspective, that’s a lot of agents just to transport these people to the station,” Vasavilbaso told the News 4 Tucson Investigators

Agents also tell the News 4 Tucson Investigators, human smugglers are now using buses to bring migrants to the border, where the groups then surrender to responding agents.

“Whenever a big group of individuals arrives at the border, then it becomes a crisis because now we need to use a lot of our resources to go and make sure that everybody is safe,” Vasavilbaso told the News 4 Tucson Investigators

From there, the migrants begin a long legal process.

Right now, the backlog of immigration cases is more than one year or even longer, as the number of people crossing continues to rise.

“Just in January and February of this year, there’s been over 16-hundred family units alone. We’re talking about family units – not just single people.” Vasavilbaso told the News 4 Tucson Investigators

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham

Paul Birmingham is an Edward R. Murrow Award winning broadcast journalist and Investigative Producer with the News 4 Tucson Investigators. Paul is a Tucson native, UA graduate, and licensed private investigator.
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