DEL RIO, Texas — Border Patrol agents in the Del Rio Sector have arrested 45,000 migrants in the last year.
On Thursday, Chief Raul Ortiz of the Del Rio Sector hosted the annual State of the Border Address at the Del Rio Civic Center, in front of an estimated 500 people.
Ortiz said he invited the community to learn more about what is happening right now with Border Patrol in the Del Rio Sector, and the challenges his agents face every day on the frontlines.
“Not having enough agents on those frontlines is of concern to me,” Ortiz said. “My agents are tired.”
Tired because, Ortiz said, the crisis at the border is causing additional agents to staff the overcrowded processing centers, most of them at capacity, and provide care for the migrants.
“On any given day, we may have anywhere from five to 10 Border Patrol agents that are performing hospital watch on individuals that are receiving secondary care that we weren't able to provide at one of our facilities,” Ortiz said. “That's a strain on our resources.”
Accompanying migrants to the hospital is just one of the extra duties agents have been faced with in the last year, according to Ortiz.
“We don't have enough agents enough personnel. We don't have enough resources, yet we continue to go out there each and every day to perform what we call a very important mission,” he said.
Ortiz shared statistics to back up his assertions, including the 45,000 arrests agents in the Del Rio Sector have made in the last year, up from 13,000 arrested the year before.
"Our special operations detachment is stretched awfully thin because of all the heat related rescues and all the water rescues that we’re having to perform right now," he said, adding the migrants are from 51 different countries, not including Mexico.
On average Border Patrol is arresting 250 a day, according to Ortiz, and he said he fears more could be on the way, especially with less agents protecting the border.
“We had a big caravan last year, I’m worried about another one developing and coming our way and our ability to respond appropriately,” said Ortiz.
Speaking to the media after the presentation, Ortiz said the numbers have gone down slightly in July, a trend he believes is due to Mexican officials cracking down on people making illegal crossings.
“What the Mexicans have done over the last several weeks has impacted and reduced the number of people right now that are coming across that river right now, and hopefully they can sustain that,” he said.
Ortiz always said the Del Rio Sector could soon adopt the Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the Remain In Mexico policy. Under the protocols, asylum seekers would wait outside of the U.S. in Acuna or Piedras Negras until their immigration court hearings.
“It’s a capacity issue on the other side of the river right now that we’re working on, so we’re going to continue to try to coordinate and collaborate with them so that way we can get that into the Del Rio sector as soon as we possibly can,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz also addressed the issue of overcrowding at the nine processing centers in the sector, saying they have plans to open a temporary shelter in Eagle Pass that will alleviate the issue.
“We've set up some temporary shelters, tents in our Eagle Pass station, which is one of our newer stations. And that's going to allow us to hold probably about 250 more people than we have in custody right now,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz is from Del Rio and said he’s been with the Border Patrol for 28 years.