Brazilian couple raises doubts after reaching the US by contracting a smuggler for $18,000


A Brazilian couple say they regret paying $18,000 to a human smuggler to help them and their two children illegally cross the US-Mexico border because they were briefly arrested and are now required to wear ankle monitors that track their every move.  

Marcos Gomes de Lima and Alciene Nicole were both unemployed when they decided to abandon their home in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais before crossing into the US illegally. 

The couple and their children are now living in Connecticut with a friend while they wait for an immigration hearing where they will learn whether they will be allowed to stay in the US. 

 ‘We gave a 30,000 (Brazilian reals) down payment and $1,000 a month,’ Gomes de Lina told Brazilian outlet G1. ‘We (borrowed) money from our friends who are in the United States. We made some savings.

‘I don’t know it this is worth it, but let’s see now. There are a lot of people who say it’s worth it.’

Marcos Gomes de Lima and Alciene Nicole revealed to Brazilian outlet G1 that they paid a smuggler about $18,000 to bring them and their two children into San Diego via the border with Mexico

Marcos Gomes de Lima and Alciene Nicole revealed to Brazilian outlet G1 that they paid a smuggler about $18,000 to bring them and their two children into San Diego via the border with Mexico

Marcos Gomes de Lima shows off the ankle monitor he and his wife are required to wear at all times as they await the family's immigration process to play out

Marcos Gomes de Lima shows off the ankle monitor he and his wife are required to wear at all times as they await the family’s immigration process to play out

Alciene Nicole and her husband Marcos Gomes de Lima with their two children before they migrated from Minas Gerais, Brazil, to the United States.

Alciene Nicole and her husband Marcos Gomes de Lima with their two children before they migrated from Minas Gerais, Brazil, to the United States. 

The family was ferried from Mexico across the border into San Diego, where they voluntarily turned themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol.

After spending two days at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, the parents were released along with their children as long as both adults agreed to wear ankle monitor devices. 

The family eventually made it to New York City before continuing on to Connecticut where they are staying at a friend’s home.

Gomes de Lima and Nicole did not reveal how much time they spent in Mexico before they crossed into the U.S. 

According to Gomes de Lima, it was the first time in his life that he had been taken into custody by law enforcement.

‘I had never entered a police station before. We arrived just as there were some police officers, we knew they would be there. We had a guide with us who knew the right time,’ he said.

Marcos Gomes de Lima posses with his daughter, one of his two children who along with his wife crossed the United States-Mexico border with the aid of a smuggler before they turned themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego and were subsequently released

Marcos Gomes de Lima posses with his daughter, one of his two children who along with his wife crossed the United States-Mexico border with the aid of a smuggler before they turned themselves in to the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego and were subsequently released

Brazilian national Alciene Nicole with her two children. According to CBP data, 46,280 Brazilians were detained at the southern United States border during the first 11 months of the 2021 fiscal year (October 2020 to August 2021). In comparison, 17,893 individuals were apprehended in all of fiscal year 2019

Brazilian national Alciene Nicole with her two children. According to CBP data, 46,280 Brazilians were detained at the southern United States border during the first 11 months of the 2021 fiscal year (October 2020 to August 2021). In comparison, 17,893 individuals were apprehended in all of fiscal year 2019

A baker by trade who was making around $450 a week before the COVID-19 pandemic left him unemployed, Gomes de Lima said his first task will be to find employment and pay his friends back.

‘From what my friend said, I’m going to earn $23 an hour. In Brazil I earned 60 Brazilian reals ($10.80) a day,’ he revealed. ‘If I had been earning the money I was earning, I wouldn’t have come here.’ 

Said Nicole: ‘The first money I earn I will send to my family. I will help my sisters, I have seven. My biggest dream is to help my family and other people.’ 

According to CBP data, 46,280 Brazilians were detained at the southern United States border during the first 11 months of the 2021 fiscal year (October 2020 to August 2021). In comparison, 17,893 individuals were apprehended in all of fiscal year 2019. 

While that’s just a fraction of the more than 550,000 Mexicans who’ve been nabbed so far this year, Brazilians now rank No. 6 among the nationalities detained in 2021.

Gomes de Lima and Nicole are part of a wave of Latin American migrants fleeing a region ravaged by COVID-19 and hoping for more lenient treatment since former President Donald Trump left office in January. 

Southern border apprehensions have jumped to their highest levels in 20 years, causing headaches for President Joe Biden.

‘We’ve had flows with Brazilians in the past that I’ve seen, but not to this extent,’ said Ramon Romo, chief of the Human Smuggling Unit at Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Brazilian migration to the United States has been on the rise since 2018, when right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro was elected. Just over 1,500 Brazilians were detained at the U.S. southern border in 2018, a number that jumped 1,100% the following fiscal year. 

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protections  last monthly report released in mid-September, U.S. Border Patrol agents reports 46,410 encounters with Brazilian nationals during the first 11 months of fiscal year 2021

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protections  last monthly report released in mid-September, U.S. Border Patrol agents reports 46,410 encounters with Brazilian nationals during the first 11 months of fiscal year 2021 

Marcos Gomes de Lima poses for a selfie with his son. Gomes de Lima told Brazilian outlet G1 that in order to migrate to the United States via Mexico, he and his wife paid a smuggler around $18,000. 'We borrow money from our friends who are in the United States. We made some savings. I don't know it this is worth it, but let's see now. There are a lot of people who say it's worth it'

Marcos Gomes de Lima poses for a selfie with his son. Gomes de Lima told Brazilian outlet G1 that in order to migrate to the United States via Mexico, he and his wife paid a smuggler around $18,000. ‘We borrow money from our friends who are in the United States. We made some savings. I don’t know it this is worth it, but let’s see now. There are a lot of people who say it’s worth it’

The number of Brazilians jumped as the coronavirus pandemic – which has killed over 603,855 – has left many without jobs. Unemployment is around 14%, while annual inflation has hit double digits.

Brazilians are required to show a visa in order to enter the United States directly. But thousands opt for the unlawful route as they are not required to present a visa to enter Mexico, where they hire the services of smugglers.

Central Americans and Mexicans with children often are expelled to Mexico upon arriving at the U.S border as part of a U.S. policy initiated during the pandemic. In contrast, almost all Brazilians traveling with minors who arrive at the southern border seeking asylum are admitted to await their hearings on American soil.

Through August of this fiscal year, 99.2 percent of Brazilian family units have been allowed entry, CBP data show, compared with about 15 percent of Mexican families, 57 percent of those from Guatemala and 66 percent of Honduran family units. 



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