Federal, state and local officials are coordinating efforts in Eagle Pass, and working in conjunction with their Mexican partners, in the event a large number of immigrants try to cross the border illegally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol officials said Wednesday.
Federal officials and city of Eagle Pass officials held a press conference Wednesday afternoon on the grounds of the Camino Real International Bridge, in Eagle Pass, where they encouraged everyone to utilize legal resources and be patient when applying for asylum or otherwise trying to come into the United States.
Federal officials reinforced their presence and training in Eagle Pass and other ports of entry after a caravan of 1,700 migrants coming from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua arrived Monday in Piedras Negras, Coah., Mexico, across the border from Eagle Pass.
Eagle Pass Port of Entry Director Paul Del Rincon said Customs and Border Protection officials continue to monitor the situation in case a large quantity of people come through either one of the two international bridges in Eagle Pass.
CBP officials have been holding training exercises on the bridge, including blocking the traffic lanes with concrete barricades, and deploying agents in riot gear along the bridge.
“With all what is going on we continue to facilitate trade and travel,” Del Rincon said at the press conference.
He said they are also working with their government of Mexico partners, to make sure the capacity of the port of entry is not overwhelmed by asylum seekers.
Del Rincon said each one of the cases takes approximately two to three hours to process before sending them to the detention center. The port of entry, he said, has been processing between 16-20 cases daily.
“We don’t have the capacity to receive this many people,” Del Rincon said.
He said the processing of an asylum seeker starts when the individual comes through the bridge and recommended everyone to get in line and wait patiently.
Del Rincon said the port of entry has not been closed in response to an emergency situation, and that the only partial closures are due to the training exercises. He also said state officials have been providing assistance and “I am pretty comfortable with what we have.”
Del Rio Sector Acting Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudak said the Border Patrol has increased its presence between ports of entry along the area.
“We have significantly increased the amount of Border Patrol agents, we are having support from our partners in the Texas Department of Public Safety,” Hudak said.
He said the message to everyone looking to come into the United States is that there is a right way to seek asylum or to seek entry into this country, “that is using a lawful port of entry in the process at the port of entry. If somebody chooses and makes that choice of entering illegally at a point other that the port of entry we want to remind folks that that is an offense and they will be handled accordingly,” Hudak said.
“We are encouraging everybody to do it the safe way, to do it the right way, go through the port of entry,” he said.