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Texas City Sees Jump in Irregular Migrant Crossings

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U.S. immigration authorities reported a significant uptick in unauthorized border crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border Thursday, particularly in areas like Eagle Pass, Texas, where the mayor has issued a state of emergency.

U.S. Border Patrol officers apprehended about 9,000 migrants along the entire border in a 24-hour period, according to media reports on Wednesday. VOA asked Border Patrol to confirm the number of apprehensions, but an official, who spoke on background, said they were waiting to release monthly migrant encounter numbers.

The noticeable rise in migrant arrivals in Eagle Pass strained local resources and overwhelmed already crowded facilities.

On Wednesday evening between 500 and 800 migrants, mostly from Venezuela, were waiting to be processed by Border Patrol officials under the Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras International Bridge, one of the two bridges in Eagle Pass.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told VOA on background — a method often used by U.S. officials to share information with reporters without being identified — that CBP suspended crossings at Eagle Pass to help with the influx of migrants over the last few days.

“But we anticipate reopening it once they [border officers] are done dealing with [migrants] today,” the official said by phone, adding that traffic was being diverted to another bridge in the same area.

“There are times that we have to close the ports. We just simply divert traffic to other ports of entry,” the spokesperson said.

After the increased number of unauthorized crossings, Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas Jr. signed an emergency declaration. In recent years, the region has become accustomed to regulating migration as it became a heavily used point for newcomers to cross into the U.S.

“The emergency declaration grants us the ability to request financial resources to provide additional services caused by the influx of undocumented immigrants,” Salinas wrote in Wednesday’s emergency declaration.

In response to the surge in encounters, the CBP spokesperson said officials expect to see more fluctuations, knowing that smugglers will continue to use misinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals.

U.S. authorities could not provide a specific reason for the recent increase in crossings. However, they said it is usually a combination of misinformation spread by smugglers, economic hardships in migrants’ home countries and migrants running from authoritative regimes.

The CBP officer told VOA that often individuals pay a smuggler but end up traveling in groups and arrive all at once at a specific part of the border.

“The big thing that we want people to know is that, ‘Look, if you come to the border and you don’t use CBP One app, and you didn’t take advantage of those lawful pathways that the administration has set up, it’s going to be presumed that you’re ineligible for asylum,’” the official said.

The CBP official also said the border continues to be closed to irregular migration and that without a legal basis to stay in the country, migrants will be processed for removal and face consequences that include “a minimum five-year bar on re-entry, loss of eligibility to access lawful pathways, and prosecution for repeat offenders.”

In May, just before the expiration of the COVID-era restriction known as Title 42, border officials encountered more than 8,000 people a day along the entire border. After the end of Title 42, these numbers decreased significantly, with daily encounters averaging 3,500 illegal crossings.

Increase border enforcement

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced plans to increase enforcement across the U.S.-Mexico border, including additional military personnel — on top of the 2,500 state National Guard personnel — to support border officers on the ground.

The CBP official who spoke to VOA on background said military personnel do things that do not involve contact with migrants, such as watching surveillance cameras, and other collateral duties.

Immigration authorities have not released the August migrant encounter numbers at the U.S.-Mexico border, but the last available data showed about 183,000 migrants were apprehended in July. At the same time in 2022, that number was 200,162.

“So the [Border Patrol] agents and processing coordinators can fully concentrate on the situation they have to deal with … we have a plan and we’re executing that plan. We remain on the lookout for fluctuations,” the official said.