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The number of Mexican people entering the U.S. as families has grown significantly


With a border deal failing in Congress, there's little to stop people from continuing to enter the U.S. from Mexico. And lately, there's been a shift in who is trying to cross and why. The number of Mexican people entering as family groups has grown by nearly four times since 2022. It was more than 230,000 last year. Arizona Public Media's Danyelle Khmara reports from a migrant help center in Mexico.

DANYELLE KHMARA, BYLINE: It's breakfast time at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, and dozens of migrant families are here. Kids run around as volunteers spoon heaps of (speaking Spanish) and frijoles with warm tortillas onto people's plates.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (Speaking Spanish).

KHMARA: A soft-spoken 27-year-old named Rosa is here with her son, who's 9. We're only using Rosa's first name because she fled threats on her life and is afraid that she could be found.

ROSA: (Speaking Spanish).

KHMARA: Near the noisy kitchen, Rosa says, in November, they fled their little town in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, about 1,500 miles south of here.

ROSA: (Speaking Spanish).

KHMARA: She says her life was in danger, and her child was at risk, so she decided to leave. She no longer had an alternative. Most migrants this center helps now come from southern Mexico, says spokesperson Pedro De Velasco. Many, he says, have small children.

PEDRO DE VELASCO: If we only consider Guerrero, you know, as a country, it would be the top one country. A lot of people are fleeing Guerrero, and they tell us about this total impunity, where the cartels are pretty much running towns.

KHMARA: In the past, De Velasco says most migrants told them they were coming to the U.S. for economic reasons. Now, more than 83% say they're fleeing violence. In 2022, the Biden administration opened pathways for tens of thousands of Venezuelans also fleeing violence and economic upheaval, offering them humanitarian parole. Last year, that was expanded to include people from Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua. But there's nothing like that specific to this new wave of Mexican families crossing into the U.S. now.

Rosa, who wants to enter legally, says her only hope now is to use the CBP One app, which allows a limited number of people to apply for humanitarian parole. She gets on the app every morning, trying to secure an appointment for herself and her son. She's had no luck so far.

ROSA: (Speaking Spanish, crying).

KHMARA: She says, "it's a desperate situation to wake up with the hope of getting an appointment and realizing you're not going to, and you're going to have to try again." It's unlikely that people like Rosa will have an easier time getting asylum anytime soon. The bipartisan border deal that just died in the Senate called for reducing the number of migrants allowed into the U.S. and quickly returning them to their home countries. Rosa continues trying to get an appointment on the CBP app every day, but she doesn't know how long it will take. And after about three months, she's running out of shelters to stay at.

ROSA: (Speaking Spanish).

KHMARA: Rosa says she left Guerrero with fear, but also courage, to find a place where she could be safe with her son. She says, with all she's gone through, she trusts in God it will pass, and she'll find a place to be safe. It's her only hope.

For NPR News, I'm Danyelle Khmara in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.

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Danyelle Khmara