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48 Hours on the Border: What happens when migrants arrive at border wall

migrants arrive at us-mexico border in san diego 48 hours series
Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 12, 2024

SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KGTV) — Migrants seeking asylum can arrive at the border at any time of day or night.

Some are families, made up of men, women and young children, who say their journey to the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego was anything but easy.

Brian Senteno traveled from Honduras with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter. He says the family trekked through Guatemala, Mexico and eventually up to the border. He describes his family's travel as sad and very difficult.

The Senteno family says it was painful to leave everything behind, but gangs in their city started extorting them for money, demanding a weekly payment they could not afford.

During ABC 10News’ 48-hour trip to the border, we witnessed migrants arriving close to midnight, waiting to be processed by Border Patrol agents.

The group walked up between the two border walls in a space that's become a makeshift holding area for migrants who arrive to seek asylum. The space is federal property regularly patrolled by Border Patrol agents.

However, when the migrants arrive, they don't really know what's next, so volunteers like Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee step in. He and volunteers from other San Diego-based nonprofits run this supply station to guide people as they arrive.

The station has been operating for almost a year but has been permanent at the border near San Ysidro since September.

The volunteers offer the migrants coffee and food as soon as they arrive. They also check for any injuries and provide basic first aid for them.

However, sometimes the migrants require more urgent medical attention. Our cameras captured the moment a smaller group arrived earlier in the night, including a family from Bolivia and several Jamaicans.

In that group, a 62-year-old woman was going in and out of consciousness. A Border Patrol agent arrived on the scene to try and help keep her alert until local first responders arrived to take her to a hospital. In that same group, there was also a Bolivian mother with a gash on her head. She did not require hospital treatment.

Once everyone is cared for medically, Border Patrol begins their intake process.

The groups are then lined up, photos taken of their faces and passports, and provided with a tag for their belongings. The men are searched, handcuffed, and, along with the women, loaded into the van and taken away to a detention center for processing.

Border Patrol tells us people are picked up as soon as possible, but it depends on space at their detention facilities and the availability of transportation and agents.

The volunteers have learned the process as well; they also brief the migrants even before agents arrive by handing out information sheets that volunteers drafted in multiple languages.

Over the course of two days, the number of groups arriving varied. On the first night, there were several dozen, but on the second night, there was just a small group of five people. All of them told us the journey, the injuries and the waiting were all worth it for them.

After being processed by Border Patrol, a majority of the migrants are eventually released into San Diego, where they travel to their sponsors, oftentimes family members, across the country, with future court dates where a judge will ultimately decide whether or not they have a valid asylum claim.