DEL RIO, Texas — Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano announced Friday that the city and Department of Public Safety troopers will close toll booths at the Port of Entry Bridge, effectively shutting down access to and from Mexico as more asylum-seeking migrants arrive in Del Rio.
Earlier this week, the KENS 5 Border Team obtained video of migrants under the International Bridge, where officials were having them wait until they could be processed for entry into the country.
At that time, the crowd was made up of nearly 6,000 migrants. As of Friday, Mayor Lozano says that number has increased to 12,700 migrants, including another encampment established by Weir Dam. Now, on Saturday, the number is up to 14,000, and in the coming days, could reach 20,000.
Officials told KENS 5 the staging site under the bridge is temporary.
The Biden administration worked Saturday on plans to send many of the thousands of Haitian immigrants who have gathered in a Texas border city back to their Caribbean homeland, in a swift response to the huge influx of people who suddenly crossed the border from Mexico and congregated under and around a bridge.
Details were yet to be finalized but would likely involve five to eight flights per day that would begin Sunday, according to an official with direct knowledge of the plans who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. San Antonio, the nearest major city to Del Rio, where the migrants have gathered, could be among the departure cities.
The official said Friday that operational capacity and Haiti's willingness would determine the number of flights, but that “good progress” was being made.
On Saturday, Congressman Tony Gonzales released the following statement:
“We are seeing the situation rapidly deteriorate in real time. Since my visit on Thursday morning, numbers have increased from 8,000 to 14,000 people. Border patrol agents are doing everything they can but it's clear they need more support and they need it NOW.
I have been in talks with US Border Patrol Chief Ortiz and with the White House. Here are actions being taken:
Within 24-48 hours, DHS will have added 400 agents tasked to the Del Rio sector. The Del Rio Port of Entry has closed and traffic rerouted to Eagle Pass.
DHS is also working to increase and accelerate repatriation flights to return migrants to their country of origin. This includes Haitians and Central Americans. There will be a surge of 8 ICE flights this coming week, up from from 2-5 flights before, with more flights to be potentially programmed.
Although Title 42 is still being used to expel some migrants, the admin has made it clear that others will still be released in the country while awaiting immigration proceedings. I’ve been clear that this policy is disastrous and will continue to push the admin to resume Remain in Mexico so migrants no longer have an incentive to be released in the US.
ICE and CBP will also be flying migrants to other processing sectors to relieve some of the burden from Del Río. Some will be taken to El Paso, other to Laredo, with possibility for other locations.
There is a shortage of housing for agents that are being sent to Del Rio. We are looking at every option possible to find them shelter while they are there, that could potentially include Laughlin AFB. Collaboration is key right now.
I am continuing to get messages from our Del Rio community on the ripple effects of this crisis. There are food shortages in grocery stores and restaurants have been asked to close early to make food for the camp. Workers who usually commute from Mexico are unable to get to their jobs resulting in a shortage of help in hotels and other industries.”
On Thursday, Governor Abbott said in a statement that he had ordered six points of entry at the Texas/Mexico border "shut down".
“I have directed the Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to surge personnel and vehicles to shut down six points of entry along the southern border to stop these [migrant] caravans from overrunning our state,” Abbott said in an emailed statement.
But a CBP spokesperson said the federal government — which operates ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border — has no plans to shut down any ports of entry.
Later Thursday, Governor Abbott said in another statement that the federal government is going in the wrong direction on border security.
"Six hours after U.S. Customs and Border Protection requested help from Texas to close ports of entry and secure the border, the Biden Administration has now flip-flopped to a different strategy that abandons border security and instead makes it easier for people to cross illegally and for cartels to exploit the border. The Biden Administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan. I have directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to maintain their presence at and around ports of entry to deter crossings."
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