From India to Arizona: What's causing a spike in immigrants crossing through Mexico
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Jun. 24, 2013
NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Just who is crossing the border into Arizona? A KGUN9 News investigation might have you think twice about the countries from which illegal immigrants are coming. The initial story uncovered an increase in Indians entering through Mexico. Now, answers to how and why they’re doing it.
One of the first clues of the trend came from a house in Nogales, Mexico, where federal police suspected 58 migrants had been kidnapped. Among those presumably on their way to the U.S. unlawfully: six people from India.
That same week, KGUN9 found at least 35 Indians detained for similar reasons in the area.
Customs and Border Protection did not comment on the spike that day. Monday, it confirmed agents have seen an “increased number" of Indians trying to enter Arizona illegally and through ports. The agency did not provide numbers.
Figures kept by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show one sign of a spike: 426 Indians applied to undergo an asylum-type process in fiscal year 2012. So far this fiscal year, 485 have already applied.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada, whose county borders Mexico, heard many of the Indians housed in his jail requested asylum.
“A number of them are asking for political asylum, and that's a bit unusual,” added Tucson immigration attorney John Messing, “because India is currently not in a state of political turmoil.”
Asylum proceedings can takes months so the results of the immigrants' requests won't be known for some time.
Messing, of Messing Law Offices, explained how they could be getting to Arizona: traveling from India, they head to countries like El Salvador, where they don't need a visa to enter. Then, they head up through Mexico to Southeastern Arizona with the help of a hired smuggler -- also known as a coyote.
Why make the long, risky trip? And why now?
“Possibly may have something to do with immigration reform,” Estrada said earlier this month. “The possibility that they may feel that there's a glimmer of hope or hope that they would be included somehow.”
University of Arizona researcher Judy Gans thought it could be India's booming economy. She spoke generally about reasons why groups of people migrate in general.
“We usually think, ‘Well, if the economies would just get better, people would stay put,’” the Immigration Policy Program manager said. “But in fact, early on in that process, we often observe an increase in emigration where when people have higher incomes, they have a greater capacity to leave and so they do. As their economy gets better, people start to leave.”
Gans also said word could be spreading from Indians already in the U.S. about opportunities here.
Tucsonans with a connection to India believe it.
“We have other folks, other cultures coming across the border and word spreads,” said Chandra Meanger, owner of Kababeque Indian Grill.
“This may be an indication of a wave that we may see more of,” Messing said.
The Department of Homeland Security's has started a special project to track apprehensions of Indians.
“This approach includes working with our domestic interagency partners and our foreign partners in Central and South America,” Customs and Border Protection wrote, “to monitor and track illicit activity, analyze potential threats and implement appropriate countermeasures, and to identify and dismantle the human smuggling networks involved.”