Eagle Pass mayor predicts more migrants will follow the 4,000 people searching for hope and safety

Rolando Salinas Jr. said authorities are expecting between 4,000 and 9,000 more migrants to cross through the city in the coming days.

By Dan Katz & Stephania Corpi, Texas Public RadioSeptember 22, 2023 10:46 am, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

More than 4,000 migrants seeking asylum have crossed into Eagle Pass, Texas this week and Mayor Rolando Salinas Jr. said authorities are expecting between 4,000 and 9,000 more migrants to cross through the city in the coming days.

“This is really not normal,” he told TPR. “Nothing that we’ve seen ever really to have so many people crossing in without consequence and congregating at the international bridge.”

Salinas signed a disaster declaration for the city on Wednesday evening. In response, the Department of Defense has sent more active duty troops to Eagle Pass to assist with the processing of migrants.

Eagle Pass is accustomed to regular migration since the city of under 30,000 became one of the most heavily-crossed areas along the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years.

However, the number of people crossed in recent days has overwhelmed the city’s local police and fire departments, according to Salinas.

In a rare move, U.S. Customs and Border Protection redirected its agents from processing vehicles and the railway along the busy trade port between Piedras Negras, Mexico, and Eagle Pass in order to assist Border Patrol with taking migrants into custody.

“In response to this influx in encounters, we will continue to surge all available resources to expeditiously and safely process migrants,” CBP said in a statement. “We will maximize consequences against those without a legal basis to remain in the United States. CBP will continue to prioritize our border security mission as necessary in response to this evolving situation.”

The city’s only shelter has been unable to accommodate all of the asylum seekers being released, and has moved to a bigger space to help the migrants after they’ve been processed.

Eagle Pass is at the center of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border security program that calls on Texas Department of Public Safety and National Guard troopers to arrest migrants on state trespassing charges.

The multi-billion program has been criticized for violating the rights of asylum seekers and for usurping authority from the federal government to enforce immigration laws.

Abbott and the Biden administration are currently in a legal battle over a 1,000-foot string of spiked buoys Texas installed near Eagle pass to deter crossings along with miles of razor wire.

In a social media post Wednesday, Abbott claimed that Border Patrol agents cut some of the razor wire DPS installed on the Rio Grande at his direction. The Republican governor said he “immediately deployed more Texas National Guard to the area to repel illegal crossings & install more razor wire.”

Maverick County Democratic party chair Juanita Martinez said she believe the situation is being blown out of proportion by right wing media and politicians.

“It’s very frustrating for the Republicans to be spreading this propaganda, painting a picture of our community that is absolutely false. It’s fear mongering, you know, and it serves their political agenda.”

Despite attempts by the state of Texas, the U.S., and Mexico to deter illegal migration, a growing number of migrants are arriving at the border as conditions continue to deteriorate in Central America and Venezuela.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that it is expanding Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to nearly half a million Venezuelans already in the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that TPS would not apply to more recent arrivals.

This kind of migration surge at a remote port of entry has not been seen since 2021, when more than 16,000 Haitians amassed at the Del Rio Port of Entry about 50 miles up the Rio Grande.

Local officials hope the situation in Eagle Pass can be resolved before it has a major impact on trade.

In northern Mexico, train services were briefly suspended this week due to an increase in migrants hopping on top of cargo trains en route to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ferromex, the largest Mexican railroad operator, briefly suspended 60 of its train routes after a series of accidents the company said resulted in “half a dozen deaths or injuries of migrants.”

The company, owned by Grupo Mexico, expressed its concern for the “significant” presence of migrants on their railcars growing to more than 4,000 in several cities along their routes — including Eagle Pass.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and TPR.org. Thanks for donating today.