DEL RIO, Texas — As migrants continue to arrive into the U.S., Governor Greg Abbott has taken the reigns, deploying state resources to deal with the crisis while blaming the Biden Administration for not enforcing federal immigration laws.
But, why is the extra help needed?
“More groups just kept coming, and by about 10 o’clock in the morning, we were sitting on about 350 to 380 people,” said Del Rio Border Patrol Sector Chief Austin Skero.
Skero is describing a situation recently in Del Rio where he said many smaller groups of migrants crossed into to the U.S. overnight, and by morning they had all gathered at the fence less than half a mile from the river.
“The folks were going to surrender to law enforcement. They know where to go and so they're coming up to the gate,” said Skero.
Though the massive group is not seen every day, large groups gathering in the area near the international bridge are becoming a usual sight.
We rode along with Skero as he took us behind the fence, a restricted area not accessible without a law enforcement escort.
Once we pulled up in the area near the fence, a group of over 40 migrants, mostly Cubans and Venezuelans, were already waiting.
We saw only a handful of agents helping the group, and only one transport van in service.
And while that group was waiting, we saw another two groups walking in from the river.
“It just drives home the point that we don't have enough people here in the Border Patrol in Del Rio Sector to deal with this problem,” said Skero.
The number of migrants coming to this area in the last few months is staggering.
“I told you back three or four months ago that if we did not see significant change, we would potentially be seeing 35,000 apprehensions a month here in the Del Rio sector,” said Skero. “Last month we were at 30,000.”
Skero said they’re averaging over 1,000 migrants a day.
“We have an obligation to go out and apprehend every single one of these folks, regardless of whether or not they're surrendering or they're trying to get away from us,” said Skero.
With the mass numbers of migrants, Skero said most of his agents have been pulled from the field to process the migrants as quickly as possible.
“The key here is that we have to know who they are, and we have to know to the extent that we can, why they're here, and the only way that we can do that is to go out and make the apprehension, bring them into the office, run biometrics on them and find out who they are, find out if they have a criminal history, find out if they have nefarious intent,” said Skero.
Skero said overcrowding is another issue. On the morning they had the massive group gathered behind the fence, Skero said they already had 2,000 migrants in the processing facility, so they had to move those migrants out before bringing any more into the facility.
The processing centers are not designed to house so many people, nor be a shelter, and processing could take up to two days.
“There are days when we are so busy with processing, care, and detention that I'll only have 12 agents to patrol 245 miles of border and most of them are transporting,” said Skero.
We spoke to Skero just a few days before his retirement from a decades-long career in Border Patrol.
“Until we apply a significant consequence to illegal entry, we're going to continue to see more people coming into the country,” said Skero.
Skero said help from DPS and the Texas National Guard is making an impact, but from the federal level, better technology and more manpower are needed.
“That's only as good as the number of agents. We have to respond to it, and right now we can't even respond to our own camera systems,” said Skero.
Skero predicts it will only get worse, setting a new record high of over 200,000 migrants in just a year.
“I am very concerned over the number of folks who are getting away from us. Again, we have all of our agents dedicated to transport, processing, care and detention. We have our partners working the flanks to try and find all of the folks who are getting away,” said Skero. “But we're just not there. So, if we're not there and we're not making the arrest, there's no way for us to know who is getting away,” said Skero.
Skero’s last day with Border Patrol is July 29. Chief Patrol Agent, Robert N. Garcia will be the Interim Chief.