‘Tale of two borders’: Mexicans not seen at busy crossings

As hundreds of migrants line up along an Arizona border wall around 4 a.m., agents try to separate them into groups by nationality.

“Anyone from Russia or Bangladesh? I need somebody else from Russia here,” an agent shouts and then says quietly, almost to himself, “These are Romanian.”

It’s a routine task for the Border Patrol in the wee hours in this flat expanse of desert where the wall ends. Migrants from at least 115 countries have been stopped here in the last year, but that may be less striking than what’s missing: Mexicans are virtually absent.

Instead, families from Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, India and dozens of other countries arrive in Yuma after wading through the knee-deep Colorado River. Their presence reflects how a pandemic-era rule still shapes the journeys of many migrants, even though much of the U.S. has moved on from COVID-19.

The changing demographics mark a dramatic shift away from the recent past, when migrants were predominantly from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. That’s especially clear at some of the busiest crossings, like Yuma and Eagle Pass, Texas, near where several people died in recent days while trying to cross the Rio Grande.

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