Migrants in Caravan Face Criminal Record Checks
WESLACO – Thousands of people are on their way to the U.S. from Central America.
The president claims some have criminal histories.
Over the weekend, a man with an active warrant for murder in the U.S. was detained by Border Patrol while crossing the border illegally with a group.
Thousands of people like Angel Torres, a Central American immigrant, came to the United States looking for a chance to work.
"My process lasted about three and a half years to get political asylum. I didn't have a work permit. I didn't have anything,” says Torres.
Torres was detained by Border Patrol. He came from Honduras to the U.S. in 2013.
He was an accountant going to the university there, but violent groups made living there hard.
"There are some neighborhoods that you can't go into. For example, I had an aunt who lived in a well-known neighborhood in Honduras. When we would go visit her at night, we had to call her so she could tell the gang members or whoever was doing the extortion that she was expecting relatives,” he explains.
Violence is driving many out of Central America.
The president believes some of those criminals are mixed into the wave of people in the caravan headed north.
Trump tweeted Monday morning "criminals and unknown middle easterners are mixed in".
The U.S. conducts screening when they process immigrants.
Marcelino Medina, a Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector, explains, "Everybody that is apprehended does get their biometrics taken and they do get their records checked."
This is how agents come across people with criminal histories like the criminal who found among a group over the weekend.
"This individual did try to get family unit designation by bringing his 13-year-old child. The record checks did however catch that he did have a warrant from South Carolina," Medina says.
The man was wanted for murder. He is among the hundreds caught with criminal histories.
In fiscal year 2017, about 165,000 immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were apprehended by Border Patrol.
Among that Central American group, two gangs prevalent in Central America were caught – MS-13 and 18th Street.
About 500 of those 165,000 were caught that year; that represents 0.3 percent of that immigrant group.
These numbers do not account for those criminal and non-criminal immigrants who enter the country illegally and are not caught.
Others like the man detained over the weekend don't have a gang affiliation.
Still, immigrants like Torres know danger follows them out of the country.
"I'm not going to lie, like in all other countries, there's good and bad people. I also believe that in this caravan there are people who really need to leave the country and other people who are mixing in who want to leave, because they're selling drugs, in gangs, thieves or things like that," says Torres.
Torres continues working as a cook for La Posada Providencia. He feels safe in this country.
"My plan is to continue according to the law,” he says.
He's working toward becoming a citizen.
The screening process includes the use of Border Patrol databases.
They also work with international partners to help identify criminals from their respective countries.