The Texas Tribune July 10, 2019NewsComments Off on Border apprehensions dropped in June, but federal officials say crisis continues
The number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by nearly 30% last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday.
In June, about 104,350 people were apprehended or turned themselves in, compared with about 144,300 in May — a decreaseof 28%. That decrease outpaced last year’s May-to-June drop by 11%, officials said. But the agency also warned that the one-month change does not signal that the ongoing surge of asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and family units, is over.
“We are still in an ongoing border security and humanitarian crisis. U.S. Border Patrol made 688,375 apprehensions through the end of June, 140% higher than through this time last year. And our June apprehension numbers are still higher than last year’s, when we were already in a crisis,” the DHS press office said in a news release.
Officials credited the decline to several factors, including the recently implemented Migration Protection Protocols, which requires that some asylum seekers be sent back to Mexico while they wait for their immigration proceedings in American courts.
The program began on the California-Mexico border in January before expanding to El Paso-Ciudad Juárez in March. As of last week, more than 7,600 people had been returned to Ciudad Juárez, according to Chihuahua state officials. The Trump administration announced Tuesday that the MPP is now in place on the Laredo-Nuevo Laredo border.
The decline can also be partially attributed to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s deployment of Mexican National Guard troops to secure that country’s southern border with Guatemala to stem the flow of migrants from Central America intent on traveling north to the United States. López Obrador agreed to the deployment after President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25% on Mexican imports.
“Since the administration reached a new agreement with Mexico, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the number of interdictions on the Mexican southern border,” DHS officials said.
The MPP program has been heavily criticized by immigration attorneys and advocates who argue the U.S. government is sending asylum seekers to violent Mexican border towns where law enforcement is unable or unwilling to protect them.
With the large surge of Central American families and unaccompanied children arriving in El Paso in the last year, officials with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have exceeded their capacity on numerous occasions.
In order to respond to the large number of families and unaccompanied children crossing illegally along the U.S./Mexico Border between Texas and New Mexico, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened two facilities, which are ready for use immediately.
Members of the media were given a tour of the facilities on Thursday.
One of the facilities is located in Northeast El Paso, behind the main headquarters of the El Paso sector, and the second is located in Donna, Texas which is near McAllen.
According to the U.S. Border Patrol, apprehensions for unauthorized immigrants in the El Paso sector have increased by more than 300 percent.
Additional complications occur when the CBP’s current holding facilities are primarily meant for unaccompanied men, not family units.
This has led to national attention and criticism regarding how and where CBP temporarily holds the Central American immigrants while they wait to be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the Department of Homeland Security if they are unaccompanied minors or Non-Governmental Organizations such as nonprofits such as churches and the Annunciation House of El Paso.
“There are not enough agents on the line,” Ramiro Cordero, Border Patrol Agent and Special Operations Supervisor said. “The agents are now processing aliens, processing families. Escorting individuals to hospitals, transporting, feeding, changing diapers – that is not the job of a Border Patrol agent. So, we are moving on – so we are building facilities such as what you see behind me to alleviate and help the process flow a little bit smoother and quicker.”
The facilities – known as “soft-sided temporary” facilities – are provided by Deployed Resources LLC of Rome, New York, according to the CBP. They are currently contracted for a cost of $36.9 million for a four-month base period; with an additional four months if needed.
Cordero said when an individual is taken to the facility, they will enter the small support soft-sided building first – which is approximately 12,300 square feet. There they will enter, and be medically screened upon arrival.
From there, they can use the shower facilities, which contain 32 stalls; which are divided into two separate sections for men and women.
If a family unit arrives and they need to bathe their children, CBP will not get involved in the process, but will allow the parent to decide how the child should be bathed.
Then they will be issued bracelets which will have designated colors. The colors will direct them to the temporary holding facility.
The holding facility is broken up into 4 sections and each section can hold up to 125 individuals.
Each section, or pod, contains 8 porta-potty toilets, with the ventilation leading outside. The toilets are going to be cleaned daily by outside contracted companies. Additionally, each facility has 4-hand washing stations; and 125 vinyl covered sleeping pads as well.
In the center of each pod stands a 7-foot guard tower which will be staffed 24-7.
Each pod will contain at least 1 medical technician, a doctor and a medical professional who will either be contracted or who will be a certified EMT or Medically licensed CBP officer or U.S. Coast Guard member.
The pods are air conditioned and each pod will have video surveillance. There are cameras on each corner of the pods.
There is also a laundry trailer with 40 washers and dryers; storage containers for detainee property; two 1,200 KVA generators for electrical services; and a refrigerated trailer for food storage and preparation.
According to the CBP agents, the El Paso sector alone has apprehended 94,000 individuals since October 1 of last year; compared to 13,000 individuals in the previous year during the same time frame. That’s an average of about 580 apprehensions a day Cordero said.
Roger Maier, spokesperson for the U.S. CBP, said on average they are processing 600 to 850 individuals per day.
On Wednesday alone, Border Patrol agents took custody of 243 immigranats, made up of family groups with small children and unaccompanied juveniles. This group was picked up at around 1:30 a.m. near the Antelope Wells port of entry in New Mexico.
Just 40 minutes later agents apprehended another group of 219 people at the border wall near downtown El Paso. Then on Thursday morning another 209 immigrants were apprehended yet again at Antelope Wells.
These facilities, Cordero said, will help. And, ideally – Maier said – an individual should be turned over to the appropriate agency within 72 hours.
“This is something we are doing because we have gotten to capacity,” Cordero said. “We have already exceeded our capacity and we need to have this in place so we can have people in humane places and we can transfer them in and out of the process. We at the border patrol are the first interaction – the first piece of the puzzle – our job is to enforce the law and our job is to process them and turn these individuals to someone else – in this case ICE enforcement removal operations.”
While the facility is currently meant to house family units, Cordero added that this could change in the future – depending on the situation and the circumstances.
Earlier this year the CPB and the U.S. General Services Administration had proposed to build a facility that would house as many as 800 people, which according to media reports, could have been the Hoover Manufacturing Facility.
But a group of business leaders in El Paso launched a campaign against the move under a Change.org petition, Action El Paso, asking the federal government to include city leaders in the conversation.
According to the petition business leaders are asking the following be adhered to before the GSA and CBP move forward with constructing the facility:
The community must be allowed to provide input on where the facility will be built. The federal government cannot come in and uproot El Pasoans’ quality of life, regional economy, and community cohesion for its own gains.
The community must have assurances regarding how this center will be staffed. We have seen too many instances where inadequate staffing has resulted in neglect and mistreatment of children and families.
The community must have assurances regarding how the health and well-being of families held in the processing center will be prioritized. It is a travesty that families are denied fundamental rights and basic dignities, such as a bed and access to health services, because processing facilities have been so poorly planned.
When asked about this, Maier said he wasn’t sure what the status of the facility was at the moment.
“That was a centralized processing center that we were looking to stand up – but that’s taking longer than expected for a number of reasons – so this (temporary soft sided shelter) is our quick response to that. But that’s still in the works – yes.”
Author: Alex Hinojosa | Gallery: Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer – El Paso Herald Post
On Tuesday morning, officials with Action El Paso – a coalition of concerned business and community leaders – launched a campaign to push back against U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) plan to open a processing center in El Paso.
In February, information was released about CBP’s plans for a processing center, when the General Services Administration (GSA) posted a bid request looking for a 250,000-square-foot facility to lease in western El Paso as early as April 15.
Despite CBP’s quick timeline of taking occupancy in June 2019 to open a processing center in El Paso, the community and business members have not been consulted by CBP or GSA about the facilities they are considering.
Officials with Action El Paso describe the facility as “warehouse-style.”
“We have all seen photos and videos of the conditions that children and families are subjected to within these warehouse style facilities,” said Jon Barela, Chief Executive Officer of The Borderplex Alliance, a member of Action El Paso. “The idea of having a facility that forces children to sleep on the floor or neglects families the basic things like access to separate bathrooms, showers or health services goes against the values that define El Paso and residents of the Borderplex region. If a processing center is to open in our community, it must be well-equipped and prioritize the humanity of migrants, and that requires careful planning and time.”
As part of the campaign, Action El Paso launched a petition demanding that before any facility is opened in El Paso, City leadership and the community must be consulted on the location of the processing center and specifically designed to ensure the humane treatment of migrants and the efficient processing of their asylum requests.
“At a time when our region is experiencing tremendous growth and economic development, we cannot allow for this new processing center to disrupt the momentum and positive economic energy in El Paso,” said David Jerome, President & CEO of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce, a member of Action El Paso. “The proposed processing center should NOT be placed near our schools, businesses, and residential neighborhoods. El Paso city and federal representatives, along with the larger El Paso community, should be consulted to fully weigh the costs and negative impacts that it might create to our economic and civic well-being.”
Barela added, “The RFP is flawed and is unnecessarily limited in geographic scope. Locations throughout El Paso County and Southern New Mexico should be explored. I urge the GSA and CBP to reissue the RFP so that a more permanent and humane solution can be found, thus ensuring a competitive bidding process and prudent usage of taxpayer money.”
Action El Paso members want to ensure that the new migrant processing center in El Paso serves as the prototype for how to efficiently process asylum seekers and migrants, and offers a real long-term solution for the influx of migrants arriving at our borders. Action El Paso is requesting a meeting with CBP and GSA to make their demands clear.
To learn more about this campaign and the petition that the campaign is circulating click here.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) delivered remarks on Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) response to human trafficking and illegal immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video can be found above.
“We know that CBP is facing unprecedented challenges today, and I applaud your efforts as well as the men and women who work with you who are on the front lines of this challenge on a daily basis.”
“We see hashtags that call what the president and others have described as a ‘fake emergency’ at the border. But in order to believe that there’s a fake emergency at the border, you have to be blind to the facts or simply unwilling to listen.”
“I feel particularly strongly about this topic because of where I live and the state I represent. We have 1,200 miles of common border with Mexico.”
“As you know, Mr. Commissioner, CBP announced that more than 76,000 people crossed the border in February alone. 76,000 in one month. This is the largest monthly total in more than a decade.”
“Compared to this time last year, family unit apprehensions have increased 209 percent in the Rio Grande Valley sector. Family unit apprehensions have increased 497 percent in the Del Rio sector. And most staggering, in the El Paso sector, overall apprehensions have increased 434 percent while family unit apprehensions have increased an incredible 1,639 percent.”
“This is not a crisis, people say?”
“I hear absolutely no suggestions from our Democratic friends on how to deal with the causes of these problems.”
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.
Staff Report February 21, 2019NewsComments Off on Customs and Border Protection Begins Installing Razor Wire, Barriers at El Paso-area Ports of Entry
Via a Thursday afternoon news release, Customs and Border Protection officials announced ‘enhanced security’ measures at the Ports of Entry in the El Paso area.
“Due to reports of the increasing numbers of migrants arriving in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso, CBP is currently enhancing security efforts in the area,” was the opening line in the email to news media outlets in the region.
The emailed release continued, “To ensure the ports of entry are not overrun by a large number of people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, CBP has taken steps to harden its ports.”
“Members of the traveling public may notice that CBP is taking a proactive approach to prevent the unlawful entry of persons into the United States at our ports of entry,” said Hector Mancha, CBP Director of Field Operations in El Paso.
“Waiting until a large group of persons mass at the border to attempt an illegal crossing is too late for us; it is vital that we are prepare prior to when they arrive at the border crossing. The safety and security of our communities, members of the traveling public, international trade, CBP personnel and our facilities is paramount.”
The ‘hardening materials’ being installed at the ports include concrete K-rails – similar in design and function to the freeway median barriers – and concertina wire.
CBP officials added, “These are the same port hardening materials recently employed by CBP at border ports in California and southern Texas when experiencing similar issues.”
As for the manpower and information regarding the caravans, CBP Officials shared that their efforts are on-going.
“At this time CBP is relying on existing El Paso port of entry personnel to support the hardening efforts. CBP continues to monitor the flow of caravan members and those from other nations who are attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico.”
Staff Report November 8, 2018NewsComments Off on DEVELOPING: CBP Reschedules ‘Crowd Control’ Exercise for Friday; Press, Public Not Invited
Only a few days removed from the original scheduled date, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officials announced Thursday evening their ‘crowd control exercise’ would go on Friday morning in Chihuahuita, without press or the public present.
According to the email, officials said Friday’s exercise would again include Border Patrol ‘assets and participants,’ however the main difference would be that the exercise would be ‘closed to the public and media representatives,’ citing safety purposes.
The training, originally scheduled for Election Day, November 6th, was abruptly cancelled with out warning that same morning.
Armored vehicles, Border Patrol trucks with horse trailers in tow, as well as the familiar white and green clad trucks had all gathered within a few steps of one of the city’s oldest neighborhood, only to quickly be removed.
On Tuesday, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Officials filed an official complaint with the Department of Justice, alleging the
original date was a form of voter intimidation.
The area where the demonstration was slated to be held is in the heart of the Chihuahuita neighborhood in South El Paso. The
neighborhood is a historically poor, Hispanic community that winds along the Rio Grande River.
On Tuesday, when directly asked by the Herald Post why the exercise was canceled at the last minute, public affairs officers said they were not given a reason.
It is good to know that this most draconian of punitive measures against those who arrive at our border seeking to preserve their lives and the lives of their children will cease.
Even so, incarcerating families in prison camps is an unacceptable option, which will cause irreparable harm to children. We should also remember that family separation occurs every time a family is torn apart by deportation, whether here at the border or in other parts of the country.
Vigilance will be needed to ensure that the dignity and human rights of asylum seekers and migrants is always respected, even in the process of careful examination of their claims. It has been found that when migrants have legal representation that the vast majority cooperate with the legal process. This representation should be seen as a necessary part of a just and compassionate nation’s response to these brothers and sisters in need.
I remain very concerned at reports that asylum seekers and other legal immigrants may be being turned away at official places of entry in El Paso. This is not an acceptable response and may constitute a violation of the law. I call on immigration officials and our elected leaders to ensure that our ports of entry remain as beacons of safety for those pursuing asylum claims.
The Church has always taught that national borders serve a useful purpose and that the orderly passage across borders is an important goal. However, when people are fleeing for their lives they don’t have the luxury to wait for years in their home country for a visa to arrive. Asylum laws were developed to respond to this need. These laws also need to be updated to respond to the present situations of violence and desperation that are driving people to leave their homes.
At the end of the day, we will be judged as individuals, as El Pasoans and as a nation by the degree to which we recognize the presence of God in the poor and vulnerable knocking on our door looking for safety and refuge. Let us not fail this basic moral test.
Staff Report March 24, 2017NewsComments Off on CBP Announces El Paso Ready Lane Segregation Installation Project
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations is announcing a project to better segregate Ready Lane traffic at the El Paso port of entry. The project will be begin March 27 and will continue until April 12.
“Ready Lane processing is generally about 30 percent faster than non-Ready Lane traffic,” said Beverly Good, CBP El Paso Port Director. “We only achieve that benefit when Ready Lanes are only used by those possessing Ready Lane documents. This project will help maintain the integrity of the Ready Lanes.”
The project includes the installation of stationary lane segregation dividers and pipe gates to allow traffic patterns to be altered during peak operational periods to direct traffic into expanded Ready Lanes. Static directional Ready Lane signage is also included in the project. The cost of the project is $563,000.
The project is set to begin Monday March 27 at the Ysleta international crossing and Monday April 3, 2017 at the Paso Del Norte and Bridge of the Americas crossings. In order to minimize the impact on the traveling public construction will occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily.
The PDN project includes approximately 700 feet of flexible bollards starting at the international boundary and continuing to the base of the bridge. When complete 8 to 10 of the ports’ 12 passenger vehicle lanes will be designated for Ready Lane usage.
The BOTA project includes approximately 700 feet of flexible bollards starting at the international boundary and continuing to the base of the bridge. Signage and gates will also be installed. When complete 8 to 10 of the ports’14 passenger vehicle lanes will be designated for Ready Lane usage.
The Ysleta project includes approximately 1000 feet of flexible bollards starting at the international boundary and continuing to the base of the bridge. Signage and gates will also be installed. When complete 4 to 6 of the ports 10 non-SENTRI passenger vehicle lanes will be designated for Ready Lane usage.
A Ready Lane is defined as one in which all passengers age 16 and older have an RFID enabled document for rapid reading of the document. This feature allows traffic to move through the inspection process more quickly because traveler information is automatically read and queried before the vehicle arrives at the primary inspection station.
To use the Ready Lanes you will need a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant, RFID-enabled card. Ready Lane RFID enabled documents include: the U.S. Passport Card; Trusted Traveler Cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, Global Entry and FAST cards); the new Enhanced Legal Permanent Resident Card or new Border Crossing Card (B1/B2); the Enhanced Driver’s License; and the Enhanced Tribal Card.
“When people enter Ready Lanes without an appropriate document it slows down the processing rate in those lanes,” said Good. “The Ready Lanes work best when only border crossers with proper documentation use those specified Ready Lanes. Those who do not have RFID documents need to avoid the Ready Lanes.”
Non RFID enabled documents CBP officers encounter include but are not limited to U.S. birth certificates, driver licenses, ID cards and social security cards which are not WHTI-approved entry documents.
To avoid travel delays, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encourages travelers to follow the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. For more information on how to obtain the appropriate card so that you can use the Ready Lane, go to www.GetYouHome.gov.