The US registers a surge in migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua

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Handout photo released by Lopez Obrador's press office of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) (2-R) and his wife Beatriz Gutierrez Muller (R) posing with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (2-L) and his wife Cilia Flores at the Mexican National Palace on December 1, 2018, during AMLO's inauguration. - Lopez Obrador was sworn in as Mexicoís next president, after the anti-establishment leftist won a landslide election victory promising to "transform" a country fed up with crime, poverty and corruption. (Photo by daniel aguilar / Lopez Obrador's Press office

When Wilfredo Molina arrived in the U.S. from his native Venezuela, he told border agents he wanted to go to Miami but didn’t have an address. They directed him to what he thought was a shelter in midtown Manhattan but turned out to be a gray office building.

“It was a fake building. I didn’t understand what it was,” he said.

Molina was among 13 migrants who recently arrived in the U.S. who agreed to share documents with The Associated Press that they received when they were released from U.S. custody while they seek asylum after crossing the border with Mexico. The AP found that most had no idea where they were going — nor did the people at the addresses listed on their paperwork.

Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, did not respond to repeated questions about families and individuals interviewed and the addresses assigned to them.

But the snafus suggest a pattern of Border Patrol agents, particularly in Texas, sending migrants without friends or family in the United States to offices that get no notice. The places often don’t have space to house migrants. Yet because those addresses appear on migrants’ paperwork, important notices may later be sent there.

“We believe that Border Patrol is attempting to demonstrate the chaos that they are experiencing on the border to inland cities,” said Denise Chang, executive director of the Colorado Housing Asylum Network. “We just need to coordinate so that we can receive people properly.”

Addresses on documents shown to AP included administrative offices of Catholic Charities in New York and San Antonio; an El Paso, Texas, church; a private home in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts; and a group operating homeless shelters in Salt Lake City.

A Venezuelan family that came to the American Red Cross’ Denver administrative offices was referred to multiple shelters before someone volunteered to take them in. Migrants who came to New York ended up in shelters, hotels, or temporary apartments that the city helped them find and pay for.

A surge in migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua brought the number of illegal crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year. In the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the year before and surpassing 2 million for the first time.

The year-end numbers reflect deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the U.S. economy and uneven enforcement of Trump-era asylum restrictions.