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Texas border ports-of-entry continue to confront spillover from international migration crisis

Mexico's Guardia Nacional has been deployed along the US-Mexico border to aide the migrant crisis. Courtesy photo

A week after several international border bridges between the United States and Mexico had to be closed because of the migration crisis, U.S. officials announced migrant border arrests fell 28 percent in June.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced July 9 that about 104,000 migrants were taken into custody entering the Southwest border – a 28 percent drop from May.

“The reduction in apprehensions accounts for decreases across all demographics, including unaccompanied minors, family units and single adults,” said Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the DHS.

According to DHS statistics, 104,344 migrants were taken into custody in June, compared to 144,278 in May. United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehends more than 1,000 illegal migrants per day in south Texas.

As part of the migrant crackdown, Mexican President Obrador also sent 70,000 National Guard members into the Mexican border cities of Reynosa, Matamoros, Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo to help apprehend migrants.

However, last week the migrant crisis forced several international bridges along the Texas-Mexico border to shut down temporarily, including two international border bridges that were closed during a 24-hour period.

In El Paso, the busy International Bridge of the Americas port-of-entry was shutdown by CBP officers in the early morning hours of July 1, after a group of 300 migrants gathered at the border to protest. By 8:00 a.m. the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and commercial trucks.

Jerry Pacheco, president of the Border Industrial Association in nearby Santa Teresa, New Mexico, told FreightWaves that the migrant crisis is reaching “9-11” levels along the border. Around 2,600 commercial trucks use El Paso’s ports of entry every day, bringing in an estimated $121 million in cargo daily.

“We are seeing waves of migrants rush the border trying to get across,” Pacheco said.

On July 3, a group of 100 migrants tried to rush past a checkpoint on the Hidalgo International Bridge in McAllen. The confrontation led to a large deployment of CBP officers to seal the area and close the bridge temporarily. 

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection deployed officers and concertina wire to temporarily close the Hidalgo International Bridge in response to multiple groups of undocumented aliens that had attempted to enter the port without inspection,” according to a July 4 CBP statement. 

Customs and Border Protection officials also temporarily closed Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville along the Gulf of Mexico, around 11:45 a.m. on July 4, after a group of 300 migrants attempted to cross the border by force, according to media reports.

On July 4, CBP also closed Pharr International Bridge along the U.S.-Mexico border to passenger cars crossing from Mexico into the United States. Pharr bridge officials recently announced updated hours of operation for the border crossing.

“We are currently closed for northbound cars, Monday – Friday; we are, however, open for northbound cars, Saturdays and Sundays from 4:00-11:59 p.m., and all southbound traffic, including cars, are moving without change,” said Luis Bazan, director of the Pharr Bridge.

Bazan added that, “this is not permanent, but will still be in place until the number of asylum seekers, across the board, decreases and/or seizes. Truck traffic has not been affected at all. On the contrary, this helps expedite the flow of commercial trade.”

The Mexican city of Reynosa lies just across the border and is connected to the U.S. by three international bridges in Hidalgo, McAllen and Pharr. More than 40,000 commercial trucks daily cross over Pharr International Bridge from Reynosa.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently deployed 1,000 National Guard troops to assist in the migrant crisis and help alleviate the traffic delays at border ports across the state.

“They will be working in assisting border patrol at ports of entry to facilitate, especially, commercial traffic coming in as well, as any other traffic that may be coming across the border,” Abbott said during a June 22 news conference.

Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]