In Preparation For Migrant Caravan, Temporary Fencing Goes Up On Progreso International Bridge

Directors of other Rio Grande Valley bridges say they aren’t adding extra barriers, but Customs and Border Protection says it’s preparing for crowd control at any port of entry.

By Kristen CabreraNovember 1, 2018 11:35 am|

Over the years, Texas has served as a gateway for many traditions now embraced as a part of life. A lot of these cultural mashups which Texans celebrate come from our neighbors to the south.

But something’s happening at the literal gateways between Mexico and Texas. As President Donald Trump now talks of sending as many as 15,000 troops to the southern border, some in charge of the international gateways are taking extra precautions. Lorenzo Zazueta-Castro of the McAllen Monitor reports that workers are welding gates in place and putting up other barriers around the southernmost ports of entry in the Rio Grande Valley.

Zazueta-Castro says at the Progreso International Bridge, just south of Mercedes, a chain-link fence has gone up on the U.S. side.

“Right after people pay their toll, their 50 cent toll to walk towards Mexico across the bridge, right before you get to the line of U.S.-Mexico, there’s a fence. A gate, that is open but has been placed as a preventative measure in case the caravan … makes its way to one of the ports,” Zazueta-Castro says.

Similar large groups of migrants and would-be asylum seekers have tried to enter the U.S. through Texas ports of entry in the past, most notably in 2014. But Zazueta-Castro says there were no measures to build barricades at that time.

“There weren’t any kinds of barriers put up that weren’t already in place at the different ports. So no, this is the first time that I’ve seen gates go up with any kind of mass movement like that,” he says.

In photographs from Zazueta-Castro’s recent piece in the Monitor, the fence looks like it has been welded into place, which could indicate that it’s meant to be there long term. But he says Progreso International Bridge Director Juila Ramirez told him the gate is a precautionary, preventive and temporary measure.

“[She] does not expect them to last past whenever this caravan decides to hit or arrive at any of the ports,” Zazueta-Castro says.

He says last week, Ramirez met with Customs and Border Protection officials, and other major stakeholders, and they all decided to put up the fencing “just as an in-case-of-emergency situation.”

Directors of other bridges along the border aren’t taking the same precautions. In McAllen, city officials say the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa and the Anzalduas bridges aren’t adding any additional barriers, and are operating as normal. Zazueta-Castro says regardless of which bridge the migrants may try to enter, CPB has told him that it’s prepared for crowd control wherever it’s needed.

“We had reports on Monday … of them conducting exercises, crowd control, wearing their riot gear. So, there’s a lot of preparation going into [it] just in case the caravan would make it this way,” he says. “Everybody’s playing it as a wait-and-see situation.”

Written by Caroline Covington.