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Migrants are showing up at the U.S. southern border in historic numbers

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Crossings along the nation's southern border are at an all-time high. Officials report more than 2.4 million apprehensions in a yearlong period ending in September.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is moving ahead with plans to add some 20 miles to the border wall in Texas, and it has resumed deportation flights to Venezuela.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Jasmine Garsd joins us now from the California-Mexico border. Jasmine, why are migrants crossing? Why is that number going up?

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Well, I think something that gets lost in this conversation is the number of displaced people around the world has never been this high. That's according to the U.N. And you can really see that at the border. I spent time in Tijuana this week. I talked to people in line who had applied online and got an appointment with Customs and Border Protection. And one man I spoke to, his name was Piotr. He's a Russian medical specialist, and he was traveling with his wife and two teenage boys. They left because there's a war.

PIOTR: Russia's, it's so difficult. I can't describe it. It's so difficult for me. Katastrofa.

GARSD: He kept repeating that word - katastrofa. Catastrophe. He asked that his last name be withheld because he still has family back home, and he's scared for them.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So he and his family applied online, and they got this interview with Customs and Border Protection, enter the U.S. with permission, which is all part of President Biden's immigration policy. But does that mean that the policy is actually working?

GARSD: Yes and no. The policy is twofold. On the one hand, punish most people who cross the border without papers. On the other, expand legal pathways, which is what Piotr was doing. But the wait to get these interviews for legal entry can be very long, and many people who are fleeing terrifying situations, they get desperate. Another person I met in line was Rossi Alejandra. She was a medical student in Venezuela. She says government harassment has gotten unbearable there. Her hope is to eventually get to Florida, where she has family.

ROSSI ALEJANDRA: (Speaking Spanish).

GARSD: So she fled Venezuela, and she lived in shelters in Mexico for months while she waited for her appointment. And during that time, she says she considered just crossing the border without papers. But she knew people who tried that, and they got deported. And, she says, being deported back to Venezuela - for her, that would mean putting her life at risk. So she just decided it wasn't worth it.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. You know, we've been hearing from officials in New York and other cities like that who say their shelters are full. They can't take any more migrants, not one more. The people you spoke to in Tijuana, are they aware of these kind of realities in American cities?

GARSD: Oh, absolutely. Over and over, I heard concerns like, will I be able to get shelter? Will there be xenophobia? Will I be allowed to work? But everyone I spoke to said that at the end of the day, it can't be worse than where they're coming from. And, you know, on the topic of jobs, something that - I keep meeting migrants like Rossi or Piotr who were in fields like medicine, where there are shortages in the U.S. And I think this is going to be a major issue in the upcoming election - immigration and labor shortages.

MARTÍNEZ: Jasmine Garsd is NPR's immigration correspondent. She joined us from San Diego, Calif. Jasmine, thanks for bringing us this.

GARSD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.