Eagle Pass, TEXAS – The number of migrants apprehended in Eagle Pass is still at an all-time high with an average of about 2,000 apprehensions per day.
“In times past and probably for the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen that the Rio Grande Valley has been the epicenter of all the illicit cross-border traffic,” James Owen said.
Owen is the Chief Patrol Agent, Del Rio Sector for US Border Patrol.
“We’ve started to see, especially over the past two weeks, a significant shift to the Del Rio sector.”
In recent days, residents of Eagle Pass have posted pictures on social media that show large groups of migrants lined up to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.
“The previous two days, though, are high marks for us that we’ve not seen since the Haitian migration back in September (of 2021),” Owens said. “In each of those two days, we apprehended nearly 2,200 individuals in a 24-hour period. That was almost a thousand more each day than the Rio Grande Valley saw.”
The influx led to an earlier opening of the new 153,000-square-foot facility, located in Eagle Pass off of Del Rio Blvd of Hwy 277.
“The one that we just opened up has a capacity of 1000 people,” Owens said. The facility includes eight large rooms referred to by Border Patrol as “pods”.
The pods, which hold 125 people, are identified by demographic including single adult males, family units, and mother and child. Each pod has eight cells that include a bench, television, a mobile restroom and handwashing station as well as cots to sleep on.
“(The facility is) going to increase our overall capacity as a sector, which is going to be helpful given the flow that we’re starting to see right now,” Owens said.
Border Patrol refers to the structure as a soft-side facility and said the people being processed do not pose a security threat. It is made up of white tents and is climate-controlled.
The facility opened Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., and by Thursday morning, Owens said they were near capacity.
Once migrants enter the facility, Owens said they’re greeted by medical staff to undergo an initial assessment. Although no COVID-19 testing is done by Border Patrol Agents or their partners, if a migrant has symptoms of coronavirus or another sickness, they are placed in an isolation area without ever entering the facility.
Those that are medically cleared then begin the process, providing data, fingerprints and pictures to verify their identity.
As of 10:30 Thursday morning, the whiteboard inside the processing area of the facility read 1,326 migrants were pending processing. According to Border Patrol, the average stay of each person is less than 72 hours, and not every individual is granted status in the U.S.
“Title 42 still exists and is still being enforced,” Owens said. “Predominantly, it is our single adults that are amenable to Title 42. So, if we get folks that are amenable under Title 42, they are expelled immediately. For us in the Del Rio sector, maybe 25 to 30% of what we’re seeing right now is amenable to Title 42.”
According to Owens, Border Patrol agents from across the nation help identify and process each person, including unaccompanied minors. As of Thursday morning, the new Eagle Pass processing facility had three unaccompanied minors who were transferred to its station in Uvalde. Depending on the time spent at the facility, kids and migrants that wait for transfer will have an opportunity to stretch, walk or play on the green turf inside the designated recreational area.
The climate-controlled recreational area will also serve as a temporary holding for processing to prevent migrants from being in the heat.
“These are women and children, that in some cases (are) tender-age children, that are subject to these conditions, we’re doing everything we can to try and make the best of the situation,” Owens said. “If I look back at what’s happened over the last couple of weeks, I would expect what’s happening now to continue. And unfortunately, we are in the hottest months of the summer… It’s well over 100 degrees. And these folks that are coming across and crossing the river in many cases are having to walk a mile and a half, two miles, just to get to a spot where we can have vehicles to transport them to the processing center.”
While the new center has reduced the backlog, Owens said still, more resources are needed.
“(Our agents) are staying long hours to make sure that we’re getting these folks out of these conditions as quickly as possible,” Owens said.