‘Afraid of my country’: Here are the most shocking things I saw in my night at the border

Jennie Taer, DCNF

San Luis, Arizona — It was dark and the desert heat had finally subsided when we pulled up to an abandoned KFC near the U.S.-Mexico border. But this was no ordinary KFC; the restaurant was once the endpoint of a drug smuggling tunnel that was discovered in 2019, according to Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines.

“It came up immediately behind us, Jennie, 400 yards inside of the Mexican border,” Lines told me as we drove further down the border.

We arrived at a gate where dozens of migrants huddled together came into view on the other side. They were the first group I had seen with migrants from Central America, usually the most common region of origin for migrants crossing the border, since I got into town just days before.

Previously, I had encountered only migrants from South America, Eastern Europe and South Asia. As we kept driving, we saw migrants from India, Colombia, Russia, Chechnya and Belarus.

One Russian woman said she was happy to be in the U.S. Many of the migrants didn’t realize they had made it into the U.S. and thought they were still in Mexico.

“Yes, now it’s going to be ok,” she said.

Migrants from Russia arrive in San Luis, Arizona after crossing the border Jennie Taer//Daily Caller News Foundation

Her journey started a month ago when she flew from Sochi, Russia, to Istanbul, Turkey, to Frankfurt, Germany and then ended up in Tijuana, Mexico, to make her way to the border. She was with a group of three others from Russia, whom she met along the way.

She said they were friends, but now consider each other family.

Migrants from Chechnya cross the border into Arizona (Jennie Taer//Daily Caller News Foundation)

Another Russian migrant told me they were transgender and preferred female pronouns, holding up a pack of hormone pills that they had been taking for two months.

“I’m afraid of my country. I hate Putin, I hate Russia,” the migrant said.

“I’m afraid to be in Russia because I’m beaten for it [being transgender],” the migrant added.

The Russian migrant was living in the U.S. just a year ago with family in Sacramento, California, where some of the Belarusians said they were headed.

Migrants from Belarus arrive in San Luis, Arizona after crossing the border (Jennie Taer//Daily Caller News Foundation)

The first group of several men, women and children from Guatemala had many ill migrants, including a baby and a woman who said she had cancer.

“We’re coming from Guatemala because in our country there’s a lot of crime and they’re kidnapping a lot of young girls,” one woman cried. “Here, I brought my 15 year old daughter with me. My daughter was already threatened and that’s the reason why we’re here.”

“And I know that with God’s mercy and with the help of you guys, we’re getting to our destination. We don’t want to go back to Guatemala because there’s a lot of crime,” she said.

Jennie Taer//Daily Caller News Foundation

Migrants from Guatemala cross the border into San Luis, Arizona (Jennie Taer//Daily Caller News Foundation)

The group had been traveling for around a month with some of them meeting each other along the way and becoming friends, they told me as they fought through tears and thanked God for saving them.

But not all of the groups were patient enough to wait hours or days for Border Patrol.

Some of the migrants decided to run into agricultural fields that lead to town where we spotted the first Border Patrol agent of the night who had caught a man, woman and child. The young girl was weeping as the agent pulled the group along to his vehicle.

Migrants who evaded Border Patrol after crossing the border into San Luis, AZ are apprehended (Jennie Taer//Daily Caller News Foundation)

In the morning, in a different area of the border, a group of over 100 migrants was comprised of Colombians, Peruvians, Cubans, Russians, Georgians, Indians and Chinese.

Because women and children are often the first to be processed by Border Patrol, the men said they had been waiting around two or three days to get picked up.

There was clear desperation from many of them, which appeared to stress the border agents.

When Border Patrol eventually showed up, the migrants would rush to line up, some of them yelling at each other because of line cutting. The three border agents loading them onto the bus were completely outnumbered.

Border Patrol is so busy with processing that they leave water for the migrants, who are waiting to be taken into custody. Multiple times we saw agents refilling the water stations and leave the migrants to wait for the next empty bus.

A family from Colombia said their journey was very expensive and that they each paid $5,000 to travel. Their group had been waiting in the hot sun for hours and said that one child had to be taken in an ambulance earlier in the day.

Some women in the group asked me if I had medicine for their headaches. They had all been out there since 8 p.m. the previous night, and it was about 12 p.m. by the time Border Patrol showed up.

Some of them, however, remained in good spirits, asking me for cigarettes and laughing at my formal Spanish. The kids were jumping around, smiling and waving at me.

Two days later, I met a group from Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Nepal, and India.

They hadn’t eaten in days, so we stopped by a local ministry and made sandwiches for them. We arrived with a box of around 60 sandwiches, which was emptied within minutes by the migrants who thanked us.

“The last three days, the police shared with me the tremendous situation … on the border. They got two or 300 people with no drinks, with no food,” said Pastor Jose Manuel Castro, who runs the independent food bank.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) didn’t respond to my request about the fate of these migrants.

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