The flood of asylum-seeking immigrants that inundated Del Rio earlier this year has slowed to a trickle, but a processing center established to move those migrants out of the city will remain open.
“The numbers of people we have been forced to release into the public has dwindled to nearly none,” Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Brady Waikel, of the Del Rio Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, said Friday.
Waikel on Friday held a joint press conference with members of the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, which was formed earlier this year after the Border Patrol announced it would begin releasing large numbers of immigrants from countries mostly in Central America on Del Rio’s streets.
Those releases were precipitated by the unprecedented number of immigrants seeking asylum in the United States.
On Friday, Tiffany Burrow, secretary for the humanitarian coalition, and Tiffany Zook, the humanitarian coalition’s volunteer coordinator, said the last members of Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based charitable organization that assisted local efforts to move the migrants from here to their final destinations, left Del Rio on Friday.
Burrow and Zook also announced although the humanitarian coalition’s processing center will remain open, it will scale back its hours.
“Ever since August, and actually before then, we started seeing the numbers (of immigrants) decreasing, and they’ve been decreasing for a number of reasons: Migrant Protection Protocols, some of the agreements we have in place with Central America, but one of the big things is the support we’re seeing from the government of Mexico, absolutely unprecedented support from Mexico,” Waikel said.
“Their enforcement of their own immigration laws is really been instrumental in keeping the large groups and the large numbers from coming up here,” he added.
At the crest of the flood, Waikel said, Border Patrol agents were arresting “anywhere from 400-some” people every day.
“We’re now averaging 100 to 120 a day now in the sector, so you can see there’s been a huge drop . . . Some days we’re not releasing any. Some days we’re releasing a handful, but our goal is to release nobody,” Waikel said.
He added that goal probably won’t be achieved “anytime soon.”
“That’s where we’re going to keep relying on partners like the coalition to help relieve that burden from the city,” Waikel said.
Burrow and Zook said during the first two weeks of October, Border Patrol agents released six individuals at the processing center, located in the Chihuahua Neighborhood Facility on Las Vacas Street. On Thursday, the women said, the port of entry released seven persons.
Burrow said the processing center will now scale back to morning hours, from 9 a.m. to noon, effective immediately, and will work with the Border Patrol so any releases can be coordinated for those times.
“My understanding is that we will not do any releases on Sundays, and we’ll only release in the mornings, in coordination with the coalition,” Waikel said.
Burrow said the coalition’s goal now is to not have any overnight stays. Migrants who had to stay overnight in Del Rio had been sleeping in another portion of the Chihuahua Center, which was overseen by the city of Del Rio.
“We’re going to try our hardest to utilize the van line, Greyhound bus line and the airport to get people out of here,” Burrow said.
Both women had high praise for the Border Patrol and the working relationship that has developed between the agency and the coalition.
“We have had such great communications with them. It was overwhelming at some points, for them, for us, for everyone, but we made it through,” Burrow said.
“From my perspective, the coalition has been phenomenal. We would not have gotten through this without them. We were in a position where we were forced to do releases that we never wanted to do to begin with, and they stepped up to help. If they hadn’t been there, I would’ve hated to see what the city would’ve looked like. It would have been very chaotic,” Waikel said.
He added he believes it is important for the public to know the lines of communication established between the Border Patrol and the coalition will remain open.