In May and June 2021 alone, 2,857 Brazilian infants and children under six illegally crossed the US-Mexico border and ended up being detained by immigration services.
These unprecedented data from the US Customs and Border Control Agency, obtained by BBC News Brasil, highlight that the total number of children under six apprehended by US agents in just two months already exceeds the accumulated total during the previous seven months.
Of these 2,857 children, 12 entered the country without the company of their parents or legal guardians and, at the time of the meeting with US authorities, were temporarily placed in the custody of the government of Democrat Joe Biden.
One of them is baby João *, one and a half years old, whose story BBC News Brasil recounted in detail a week ago. João spent more than a month in a temporary home in Virginia after being found with his grandparents, who were sent for deportation.
His mother, who gained access to the United States after crossing the border with her other teenage son, had to prove that she did not have a criminal record in Brazil in order to locate the baby. From now on, they will wait on American territory for the outcome of their proceedings before the immigration court.
The number of illegal Brazilian immigrants has increased every month and has caught the attention of the US Immigration Service. The country is already the seventh most frequent source of visa-free migrants, ahead of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Colombia and Venezuela, countries experiencing intense internal crises and with a history of sending large amounts of population. in the United States.
The number of Brazilians detained in 2021 while crossing the US border without a visa (29,500) is the record recorded in the entire historical series, which measures these movements by nationality since 2007. Ten years ago, in 2011, only 472 Brazilians were detained. in the same state.
The overwhelming majority of the nearly 4,867 children up to the age of six who arrived in the United States this way since last October were accompanied by their parents. The same goes for the 1,297 other Brazilian children aged seven to nine and the 2,585 pre-teens and adolescents aged ten to 17 who also made the trip during the period. This is what the US authorities call family units: 2/3 of the nearly 30,000 Brazilians already detained by immigration in 2021 were in nuclear families, which include parents and children.
This configuration is part of a strategy encouraged by coyotes, as the operators of these illegal routes are called. They encourage the practice of “cai-cai”: that is, the travel of visa-free migrants with their minor children to ensure that adults are not immediately deported upon their arrival in the United States when they arrive in the United States. report to local authorities.
“I followed the recent case of a man who collected the $ 12,000 billed for a coyote and was furious when the mother of his daughter, whom he was not married to, refused to let the 15-year-old girl. ans accompanied him on his journey through Mexico. He said that in order to make such a large “investment” he had to be sure that he would not be deported. And that would only be possible with the teenager’s presence. , who would not be deported or separated from his father, “said sociologist Sueli Siqueira, an expert on the migration of Brazilians to the United States at the University of Vale do Rio Doce.
Brazilian and US officials interviewed by the report say the “cai-cai” strategy was all but abandoned under the Trump administration, when the then Republican president adopted practices such as separation between parents and children, l summary deportation of minors and the obligation to wait for a response to the asylum request on Mexican territory.
But all these restrictive measures were reviewed and, partially or totally, abolished under the Trump administration or already under the Biden administration, which led to the resumption of “cai-cai”.
Elected on the promise to make the migration system “more humane” and to create a path to obtaining citizenship for 11 million migrants already living in the undocumented country, Biden has faced a crisis in the matter, with the he arrival of nearly 1.3 million people across the border in 2021 alone. Of these, 95,000 were minors without parents or guardians.
The volume prompted the current president to appoint a vice president to handle the issue. On a recent visit to Guatemala, Kamala Harris was clear: “Don’t come (to the US)”.
The appeal, however, is unlikely to have any effect on Latin Americans who want to try life in the United States now. Plunged into a mixture of economic crisis and uncontrolled pandemic, the region is experiencing a sort of new lost decade, reminiscent of the 1980s.
It is no coincidence that it was during this period that the first large wave of Brazilian migrants arrived in the United States, fleeing unemployment and high inflation. Today, according to the IBGE, unemployment in Brazil is approaching 15% and inflation has been high, especially in basic products like food.
For sociologist Sueli Siqueira, “desperation over the politics and economy of Brazil” and the “belief that Biden will make life easier for those coming from abroad” have fueled the influx of Brazilians, which is expected to remain high for many months.
She also notes that the characteristics of this migration – mainly family – also indicate that these people seek a permanent change of country, a resettlement and a new start in life, and not just to work by earning money for a few seasons then to come back. in Brazil.