Vietnamese migrants arrive at the airport in Rio Branco, Brazil, Friday, June 21, 2024.  (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)


ASSIS BRASIL, Brazil, Jul 3, 2024 (AP): Dozens of migrants sleep in a mosquito-infested six-bedroom wooden shelter in the Brazilian Amazon, their dreams of a better life in the U.S. on hold because of President Joe Biden’shalt on asylum.

Johany “Flaca” Rodríguez, 48, was ready to leave behind the struggles of life in Venezuela. She has been waiting in the shelter holding 45 people in Assis Brasil, a city of 7,000 residents bordering Peru, because others told her how difficult the journey to the U.S. has become.

Migrants, police, officials and analysts say Biden’s actions have caused a wait-and-see attitude among migrants who are staying in Latin America’s biggest economy, at least for now. Like anywhere along migrants’ routes toward hoped-for new lives, local communities are finding it hard to meet new populations’ needs.

After sleeping on dirty mattresses and in half-torn hammocks, and eating rice, beans and ground beef, Rodríguez decided this month that she and her dog Kiko would spend a few weeks with friends in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Wearing a headband, leggings and a small backpack, Rodríguez woke early to walk more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) for two days to a nearby city of 27,000 residents. There, she hopes to make some money and take a bus to Brazil’s south, then reach the U.S. one day.

Venezuelan migrant Johany “Flaca” Rodriguez carries her dog Kiko at a shelter in Assis, Brazil, Thursday, June 20, 2024. Rodriguez has been biding her time at the shelter because countrymen told her how difficult the journey to the U.S. has become. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

“I have to stay here until it is safer to go,” Rodríguez said. “I am not super happy about staying (in Brazil), but that’s what I can do.”

Brazil saw waves of migrants passing through to North America in the first part of the year. There were Indians, Bengalis, Senegalese and Nigerians, among others, said Rêmullo Diniz, the coordinator of Gefron, Acre state’s police group for border operations,

When Biden said he was going to crack down, many people in those groups began staying in their countries instead of heading to Latin America, Brazilian government officials and independent analysts said. For citizens of South American countries, it’s easier. Brazil allows residents of its 10 neighboring nations to stay visa-free for up to two years.

The Biden administration said last week that arrests for illegal crossings from Mexico fell more than 40% since asylum processing was temporarily suspended at the U.S. border with Mexico on June 5. Arrests fell below 2,400 a day for the first time during Biden’s presidency.

Acre state offers a snapshot of the attitude among many migrants, and raises the possibility that Acre and other resting spots will become long-term hosts.

The city of Assis Brasil has little to offer to migrants but the wooden shelter where Rodríguez was staying and a school gymnasium where 15 men can sleep. There are two small hotels and a bus stop used by vans crossing into Peru. It has five restaurants scattered along its main road, two grocery shops and an ice cream parlor that has Amazon flavors like local fruits cupuacu and tapereba. Migrants frequently beg for money at the city’s only square.

There are three daily flights into state capital Rio Branco, where 21-year-old Jay came from India en route to the U.S. to study engineering. He declined to disclose his hometown and his last name.

Wearing a white cap reading “RIO DE JANEIRO,” he said that “it would take too long if I just sat and waited,” in India.

“It is a long trip, very risky. But it is my dream to study there and I will accomplish it,” he said.

Brazil’s westernmost state is a remote enclave in the middle of the rainforest, used by tourists as part of an alternative route to visit Cuzco, once the capital of the Inca empire in Peru.

One of Assis’ main attractions for locals is sitting on the benches of its main square Senador Guiomard to watch soccer on TV and eat barbecue. The small city’s founders came to the Amazon in 1908 to start a rubber plantation that 50 years later became a city. Not much has changed since, despite the BR-317 road that runs by it, the only land connection between Brazil and Peru. When residents of Assis Brasil are bored, and they often are, they go to neighboring Peruvian city of Iñapari to have a drink, generally a pisco sour.

Venezuelan migrant Natalia Contreras tends to her children as they settle in to have breakfast at a shelter in Rio Branco, Brazil, Saturday, June 22, 2024.  (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Venezuelan migrant Alexander Guedes Martinez, 27, said he will stay as long as needed to get more cash and maybe in a year go to Houston, where he has family. He came with his 17-year-old partner and their 5-month-old baby.

At the Assis Brasil shelter where they were staying last month, he said that he hopes “to go (back) to Venezuela and get key documents to try to cross in a better fashion.”

“I want to be cautious because of my daughter,” he said. “Being here helps.”

Acre state’s patrol has about 40 agents to inspect 2,600 kilometers (1,615 miles) of border with Peru and Bolivia. A main road connects the three countries, but local police say that many migrants also move through the forest, some of them carrying drugs.

Cuban migrant Miguel Hidalgo, 52, tried to get to the U.S. years ago. He left the island to Suriname, then came to Brazil and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

“I like Brazil. I have been here for a short time, but people are not prejudiced against me, people are lovely,” he said. “I want to live like a human being. I am not asking for any riches. I want to live in tranquility, help my family in Cuba.”

Acre Gov. Gladson Camelli said in a statement to the AP that he is worried about a bigger influx of South American migrants coming soon.

“Our government has tried to do its part in the humanitarian support,” he said.

Assis Brasil’s Mayor Jerry Correia also is bracing for more demand. City hall is feeding about 60 migrants every day and voters are feeling upset in a year of mayoral elections.

“This is all on our back. This is a policy that has to be handled by the federal government,” Correia said. “People don’t know what happens on our border. We need to be seen.”