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Mixed Signals on Second Migrant Wave at US Border

FILE - This June 18, 2014, file photo shows young detainees being escorted to an area to make phone calls as hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona.
FILE - This June 18, 2014, file photo shows young detainees being escorted to an area to make phone calls as hundreds of mostly Central American immigrant children are being processed and held at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Nogales, Arizona.
Victoria Macchi

In Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Methodist pastor Jaser Davila said if the Central American migrants he meets daily in this border city are right, more travelers are on their way to the U.S from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Davila's humanitarian relief group is anticipating another influx like the one that has brought tens of thousands of unaccompanied children to the U.S. since last October - twice the number as the previous year.

At the makeshift migrant shelter Davila helps to run, the migrants tell him they know people who are en route, or that they hope their families will be able to join them as soon as possible. He’s heard the information so often, he's taking it seriously.

“Basically, it’s gone down a lot,” Davila said. “But the people we’re in touch with said more people are coming, more families, etc. So maybe for now it’s gone down a little, but the expectation for them is that the number of people en route to here will increase again.”

The number of Central Americans apprehended at the border peaked in June. Detention centers were so full, a steady stream of undocumented adults and unaccompanied minors who were arrested by border patrol or turned themselves in were given an immigration court date and released.

Despite a drop in apprehensions in July, farther south on the border, in McAllen, Texas, Sister Norma Pimentel has been busy for months dealing with the Central American influx. The relief center she runs for Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley saw 70 migrants arrive in one day last week.  

But Pimentel said that unlike what Pastor Davila is hearing on the Mexican border, there has been no word from the travelers she meets that more migrants are on their way.

"They don't know when people are coming and we don't know either. It could very well be that in October or later on we might have a great number of people. I think Border Patrol expects numbers to increase in the near future, but we have no clue as to what's going to happen," said Pimentel.

Shelter and humanitarian workers speculate about the variables that drive crossings at certain times of the year. They trade anecdotes and theories. Weather. School schedules. Gang recruitment cycles. Still, none of them anticipated this year's wave.

Sara Melendez, a spokeswoman with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol whose work district includes Laredo, said her office isn't aware of an imminent second wave similar to this year.

"[That's] not to say things won't change," Melendez said. "Right now it's just business as usual."

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