Border communities see uptick in migrant arrivals in recent weeks: Officials

Some cities have created overflow facilities out of an abundance of caution.

September 19, 2023, 10:28 PM

From Texas to California, communities along the southern border are dealing with an increase of migrants entering shelters, according to officials.

In a statement provided to ABC affiliate KVIA on Monday, El Paso Strategic Communications Director Laura Cruz-Acosta said the region had seen a seven-day spike in encounters at the border, averaging over 1,200 per day. The city and its Office of Emergency Management (OEM) said to have housed more than 4,200 migrants in hotels over the same time period.

Another sign showing the region is dealing with an influx of migrant arrivals, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced in a statement on Friday the suspension of cargo processing at the Bridge of the Americas.

Migrants wait for some food from an aid worker after gathering between the primary and secondary border fences between Mexico and the United States as they await processing by U.S immigration in San Diego, Sept. 12, 2023.
Mike Blake/Reuters

CBP said the temporary closure of the cargo lot in El Paso, which is typically open on weekdays from 6. a.m. to 2 p.m., would "allow CBP's Office of Field Operations officers to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in processing noncitizens who have arrived between the ports of entry including vulnerable populations like families and unaccompanied children."

The increase in asylum seekers led the county's Office of Emergency Management to establish an overflow facility at a recreation center "out of an overabundance of caution" but had not used it as of Monday night, Cruz-Acosta said.

"The city and OEM are working closely with CBP/ICE, the county and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to coordinate ongoing efforts. Due to the recent surge efforts, no street releases have been made in the El Paso region like we are seeing in California and Arizona. We are monitoring the situation closely and will provide updates as they become available. At this time, we are using hotels as they are more humane than opening emergency shelters especially, for families," she said in part.

Mark Evans, the spokesperson for Pima County, Arizona told ABC News CBP has told officials they've encountered roughly more than 2,000 people a day in the Tucson sector over the past eight days.

The county's hotels and shelters it uses to temporarily house migrants have been at or near capacity in recent days, but numbers have fluctuated daily.

On Saturday alone, the county took in 1,100 people and had to shelter 300 of them when the rest traveled to other locations or were transferred to neighboring counties. When the county deems that it can't temporarily house any more people, Evans says they have been transporting some to shelters in Phoenix.

Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief John Modlin posted on X, the company formerly known as Twitter, on Friday that there had been 13,000 apprehensions last week.

Although CBP declined to share the number of migrants that are released into communities, the agency tells ABC News that they partner with NGOs to facilitate drop-offs of migrants who have already been processed. When those NGOs are over capacity, U.S. Border Patrol communicates with local governments to find other locations for migrants to be dropped off so they can access transportation or other services. CBP says migrants who are released have undergone background checks and are waiting for their immigration cases to be adjudicated.

While CBP maintains that all releases are communicated with local organizations or governments, Evans claims Border Patrol has been releasing some migrants without telling officials because their facilities are overburdened.

"Border Patrol is so full, they have not felt it safe to wait because they got to clear out their facilities because there's just too many people. So they've just been releasing people without telling us and that has created some communications and logistical problems that we've mostly worked through over the past week. I don't know how long border patrol will maintain this posture, probably as long as they're dangerously over full. What they're telling us is that the Tucson sector is just getting hammered," he said.

When reached by ABC News, the CBP pushed back on claims that releases were uncoordinated.

"We have identified locations in coordination with our state local partners and we continue to be in communication with them on a daily basis," the agency said in a statement.

Evans says the last time the county encountered these kinds of numbers was in May, 2023 before Title 42, a Trump-era policy that was used nearly 3 million times to deny migrants the opportunity to seek asylum, ended.

"Right now we're in a wave that seems to be turning into a flood in the Tucson sector and why it's happening on the Tucson sector and why it hasn't abated I don't know. That's the question for Border Patrol," Evans said.

A CBP spokesperson says since Spring, cartels have been smuggling family units and other "nontraditional" migrants to remote areas of the Tucson sector.

In the San Diego Sector, CBP has temporarily suspended pedestrian crossings at the Ped West facility in San Ysidro, CA so officers can assist Border Patrol there.

San Diego County Disctrict 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond posted on X that as of Tuesday morning, "3,335 migrants had been dropped off in San Diego" over a period of five days.

"Hundreds of more are expected to be dropped off this morning. This is a failure by the federal government and can not continue," Desmond posted on X.

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