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May 26, 2019

Migrants dropped at US bus stations


May 26, 2019

SAN BERNARDINO, United States: The three white vans bearing the Border Patrol logo slowly make their way into a back alley next to the Greyhound bus station in the city of San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles.

As the agents slide open the doors, a group of 36 haggard-looking men, women and children -- most of them from Guatemala -- exit the vehicles carrying plastic bags filled with their meagre belongings.

They line up on a sidewalk as their names are checked by a representative from a local NGO who also enquires about their health. A man asks where he can rent a phone and one of the agents sternly answers back in Spanish. "You decided to come this way into the US, you figure out what to do," the agent says. "What do you expect? You want me to give you my house?"

Though clearly anxious about this next phase in their long journey to the US, the faces of the migrants show their relief at having made it so far. The group is part of thousands being dropped off at bus stations in California and other states by US Border Patrol as the agency deals with an influx of migrants crossing the border with Mexico and filling detention facilities to capacity.

After staying at a local shelter or church in San Bernardino, the migrants typically head to other states to join relatives or friends pending the outcome of their asylum application.

According to immigration authorities, more than 40,000 immigrant families apprehended at the border since March 19 and with no known criminal record have been released into the United States due to Border Patrol facilities being swamped.

"Whenever possible, the releases have been coordinated with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs)," US Border Patrol said in a statement to AFP. "As NGOs have reached their capacities, CBP has released family units at transportation hubs during daylight hours when the weather does not endanger those released."

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