For many asylum-seekers, flying to Mexico is ticket to US

7 months ago

SOMERTON, Ariz. -- Seated on a metal folding chair in the front row among dozens of asylum-seekers awaiting COVID tests in Arizona, Gloria Estela Vallora reaped the benefits of her Colombian passport.

For Colombians and other nationalities that don't need a visa, flying to Mexico can be a ticket to seeking asylum in the United States. Once arriving at a Mexican border city, they can walk across the border in broad daylight and surrender to U.S. agents. In doing so, they avoid the dangers of traversing Mexico and other countries over land and circumvent sweeping U.S. asylum restrictions.

Mexico accepts back its own migrants and those from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador under the order, known as Title 42. Other nationalities are eligible for expulsion, but the U.S. frequently won't fly them out due to the expense and strained diplomatic relations with their home countries, notably Cuba and Venezuela. Instead, they are often quickly released in the U.S. to pursue asylum.

The biggest beneficiaries are people from Colombia and other nations who can enter Mexico visa-free, allowing them to fly to the U.S. border and walk across.

Under U.S. pressure, Mexico is requiring visas from more nationalities, delaying or potentially eliminating the option of flying to the border. Their only alternative may be traveling illegally over land.

Last year, Mexico began requiring visas for Brazilians and Ecuadoreans and, on Jan. 21, did the same for Venezuelans. Mexico's Interior Department said the latest move responded to a tenfold increase in Venezuelans traveling “in an irregular manner to a third country,” a clear reference to the United States.

In December, U.S. off...

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