San Diego

Immigrants From Countries Other Than Mexico Apprehended at San Diego Border

NBC 7’s Liberty Zabala takes a look at who’s attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border into San Diego

U.S. Border Patrol agents working in the San Diego Sector are apprehending more immigrants from countries other than Mexico, despite the city’s proximity to the country.

For several years, the number of Mexican nationals crossing the border into the U.S. illegally has gone down, according to the Pew Research Center.

But agents have seen a recent increase in the apprehension of immigrants from countries other than Mexico, also known as “OTMs.”

For fiscal year 2016, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended 190,760 immigrants from Mexico compared to 218,110 immigrants from countries other than Mexico (OTMs) along the Southwest Border.

San Diego sector Border Patrol Agent James Nielsen says a majority of their apprehensions locally are still Mexican nationals, but in 2015, San Diego sector Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 2,000 OTMs.

That number grew to more than 6,000 in 2016. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent James Nielsen said the agency is on track to pass that number this year.

Nielsen said the OTMs are coming from all across the world.

“Central America; China; Romania; India; Pakistan; I mean, all over,” he explained.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) San Diego said the most recent apprehensions of OTMs from Oct 1, 2016. to Jan. 31 include:

  • Guate: 1,716 OTMs
  • Elsal: 749 OTMs
  • Hondo: 471 OTMs
  • India: 306 OTMs
  • Nepal: 238 OTMs

“I’ve also come across ‘Other Than Mexicans’ who actually present themselves to us,” Nielsen told NBC 7. “So, I would be driving the road and there’s a group of four people and they’re waving me down and they can be claiming political asylum or whatever you have – religious – they’re claiming asylum of some kind."

Dr. Katrina Burgess, of the UC San Diego Center for Comparative Immigrant Studies, said the people who try to cross the border illegally often risk it all to do so.

“Spend a few minutes to read about the journey these people have taken,” she said. “You do not do this lightly; they’re really risking their lives."

Burgess said the increase in OTMs show her that President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including building a border wall to separate the U.S. from Mexico, may be targeting a problem that’s no longer there.

“Migration of Mexicans to the United States is falling,” she explained. “The apprehensions of Mexicans are at the lowest level in 50 years. Some of our rhetoric and proposed solutions are stuck in the past.”

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