(NewsNation) — In a rural suburb about 30 minutes outside of Indianapolis, Robert from Togo, West Africa, is starting over.
“Now I think (of) what I can do to start a new life, and because of this country,” he said. “America is my dream country.”
Robert left Togo because of religious persecution, he said. He arrived in the United States last week, entering after Title 42 ended.
“Because (of the) religion problem, I don’t have peace to worship my God,” Robert said.
He showed NewsNation his work visas from several countries, including India, Turkey and Brazil, which he received because of his job in imports and exports. Now he says he’ll take any work that he can get in the United States.
“I will start the processes to get the permit (to) work before I start to work,” Robert said.
In Togo, they speak French, but Robert said he couldn’t go to France because they were not accepting people from his country. France, however, would be his dream destination, he said.
Robert learned about America and how to come here through the news, saying he followed other groups who were also heading to the U.S. His account echoes what NewsNation has heard from other migrants — that Panama’s Darién Gap is by far the most dangerous route as it is controlled by Indigenous gangs and many migrants are killed there.
Robert sought refuge in Brazil for a month on his way to the U.S. Under new requirements with Title 8, migrants are supposed to be denied asylum in other countries before seeking it here. However, thousands of people continue to arrive between ports of entry to seek asylum.
It’s not just where they’re arriving. It’s also how they’re being released.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas tweeted in May that “people who do not use available lawful pathways to enter the U.S. now face tougher consequences, including a minimum five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal persecution.”
While a migrant may have been processed under Title 8, it doesn’t mean they were removed from the U.S. The majority of people, like Robert, continue to be released into the country with a court date.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
Last week, Robert entered the U.S. between ports of entry in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Yuma Sector in Arizona.
He self-surrendered to Border Patrol and was transported to the Yuma station for processing.
“Food, everything, hospital … it was good,” Robert said.
Robert was placed in so-called “removal proceedings” under Title 8 and released to the local NGO — the Regional Center for Border Health. He spent three days in Yuma, staying in hotel rooms he says were provided by the organization.
“This is my dream,” Robert said. “I arrive, no problem, so I start a new life.”
He then took a bus to Washington, D.C., and from there, a plane to his final destination in Indiana, where he is living with his friend. Robert says he’ll follow the legal process as it plays out, but he has no plans to leave. He says he gave up everything to be in the U.S.
“No, we don’t do that,” Robert said. “They received me.”
The federal government maintains it does not assist noncitizens in any way financially. Still, NGOs help migrants in many ways, including financially, and are reimbursed with FEMA funds.
Robert is set to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the next two weeks in Indianapolis. He is expected to face an immigration judge in December.