YUMA, AZ (KOLD News 13) - Border Patrol agents for Yuma Sector say they have been getting about a caravan of migrants a week.
Groups of more than 300 people have been crossing the U.S. / Mexican border seeking asylum and surrendering to border patrol agents.
Justin Kallinger, Operations Officer with Yuma Sector Border Patrol said 97 percent of the apprehensions they make are family units or unaccompanied children.
“This is not the way you do it. The port of entry is literally a half a mile behind my back that you walk up to if you’re looking for asylum and you do it legally,” said Kallinger.
KOLD News 13’s Angelica Carrillo went to the port of entry in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico.
Along the border, more than a one hundred makeshift tents line the fence.
The majority are families, all waiting in line to seek asylum in the U.S. – the legal way.
Migrants are given a number and told to return when it’s called.
Carmen Lopez has been waiting in line for more than a month with her husband and two young children. When they arrived, they were number 93 and have moved up to number 13 in line.
They’ve had offers to help them try to cross the border illegally, but they say they won’t endanger their kids. Going back home isn’t an option either.
Herberth Leal and his family fled Guatemala over threats of violence, they’ve been waiting in line for 43 days and are now 18th line.
Leal says there are days U.S. Customs calls between one and three people, some days they don’t call anyone.
He says there are days he gets frustrated but each time a family or two families get called, that’s the motivation that the wait is worth it.
In San Luis, there are two main shelters – only open at night for sleeping and eating.
There’s word more migrants are making their way to the area, and Martin Salgado Gamez who runs one of the shelters says they are not ready for an influx of people.
His shelter has already decided they won’t accept an overflow of migrants like in Tijuana, Baja California.
And they’re capacity is only 85-beds.
He says churches and the city don’t have the infrastructure or the budget to give these people the medical and sanitary attention they need.
The Colorado River makes the Yuma area vulnerable and some areas aren’t covered by a fence.
Kallinger says there’s not one answer, “We need updated infrastructure, we need updated technology, we need more man power, we need specifically – the immigration laws to be changed.”
Migrants who turn themselves in are held at Border Patrol offices in Yuma for at least 72 hours before being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
After that, migrants are held in detention centers for up to 20 days before being released and told to come back at a later date to face an immigration judge.
But most don’t.
“They cut the bands off, they throw away their paperwork, never to be seen again, they try to assimilate themselves into the united states illegally.” said Kallinger.
Some undocumented migrants are eventually caught and deported.
And so the cycle continues for those who crossed illegally and those waiting their turn.
“No matter how many people they keep sending across, we’re going to be apprehending them, that won’t change. And no matter how hard they try to break us, we’re not going to break. We’re going to be there 24/7, making sure our community is safe – making sure America is safe,” said Kallinger.