Spring surge of mi­grants stresses bor­der fa­cil­i­ties

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY MIRIAM JOR­DAN AND SIMON ROMERO

Some of the chil­dren de­tained un­der the bridge in El Paso, Texas, hide their faces in their hands, shield­ing them­selves from the blow­ing dust. Be­hind the ra­zor wire, fam­i­lies sit on gravel lit­tered with pa­per cups, potato chip bags and torn My­lar blan­kets.

“This place looks like a con­cen­tra­tion camp, and we’re not sup­posed to have that in Amer­ica,” said David Casil­las, 44, a dis­abled vet­eran who tried to do­nate baby food on Fri­day to the hun­dreds of mi­grant fam­i­lies peer­ing out through the fence. Bor­der Pa­trol agents turned him away.

The makeshift en­camp­ment un­der the bridge, where im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials are de­tain­ing hun­dreds of mi­grants in a mil­i­tary tent with lit­tle hot food, was set up last week af­ter the main bor­der pro­cess­ing cen­ter in El Paso reached up to 400 per­cent of its ca­pac­ity in the largest in­flux of mi­grants to the United States in years.

Sim­i­lar scenes are un­fold­ing at bor­der sta­tions across the 1,900-mile fron­tier, where Kevin McAleenan, com­mis­sioner of Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion, said last week that fa­cil­i­ties had reached a “break­ing point.”

The Bor­der Pa­trol has been fac­ing a record in­flux of mi­grant fam­i­lies since fall, but in re­cent weeks the num­bers have be­gun to es­ca­late sub­stan­tially, thanks to the an­nual surge be­fore the ar­rival of the deadly sum­mer heat.

The in­flux has stretched ev­ery govern­ment agency on the front lines, from the Bor­der Pa­trol, whose agents en­counter mi­grants af­ter they cross, to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, whose of­fi­cers nor­mally process them for de­ten­tion or re­lease, as well as the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment, charged with the care of chil­dren who come across the bor­der with­out fam­i­lies.

In re­sponse to the surge, hun­dreds of agents are be­ing di­verted from ports of en­try, where they fa­cil­i­tate in­ter­na­tional trade, to help process mi­grants. Im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers are be­ing re­de­ployed to the bor­der from du­ties in the in­te­rior, and the govern­ment is try­ing to quickly ex­pand ca­pac­ity at shel­ters that take in mi­grant chil­dren.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened Fri­day to close the southern bor­der next week, a day af­ter he crit­i­cized Mexico and sev­eral Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­tries for not stanch­ing the ex­o­dus.

“If Mexico doesn’t im­me­di­ately stop ALL il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion com­ing into the United States through our southern bor­der, I will be clos­ing the bor­der, or large sec­tions of the bor­der, next week,” the pres­i­dent said on Twitter.

TAMIR KAL­IFA NYT

U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion set up a makeshift en­camp­ment un­der Paso del Norte In­ter­na­tional Bridge in El Paso, Texas, af­ter the main bor­der pro­cess­ing cen­ter in El Paso reached up to 400 per­cent of its ca­pac­ity.

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