AUSTIN, Texas — State officials are bracing for what could be the largest surge of migrants ever to attempt to enter the country illegally from Mexico, weeks after thousands of Haitians did so.
While border security falls under the federal government's responsibility, the Biden administration has significantly reined in the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This has resulted in fewer deportations and many people being released into the United States after illegally crossing the border, potentially incentivizing more illegal migration. Overwhelmed Border Patrol agents have been pulled from the border to process people in custody, leaving the border unguarded in many regions.
Texas government and law enforcement leaders have stepped up efforts to make up for the federal government's absence, and leaders spent the weekend preparing for a possible rush of more than 60,000 Haitian migrants. Most of the Haitians have traveled from South America to cross the border rather than traveling to a port of entry.
The number of Haitian migrants headed to the U.S. could be four times the size of the group that made it across in Del Rio last month, leading to chaos as 15,000 people camped out under an international bridge waiting to be taken into federal custody.
Renae Eze, spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott, told the Washington Examiner on Monday the state has deployed thousands of National Guard and Department of Public Safety troopers to the border over the past seven months, though she did not state how many are currently on border duties. More than 1,000 DPS officers were sent to Del Rio in late September for the first surge, a DPS official revealed during a press conference last week.
“Texas National Guard is gearing up at the border for increased caravans attempting to cross the border caused by Biden’s open border policy,” Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, wrote in a post to Twitter over the weekend. “They are working with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety to seal surge locations at the border & arrest trespassers.”
Haitian migrants are not traveling as a single group or caravan but working with cartels to go through Central America and Mexico to enter the U.S. Previous large groups that headed from Central America to the border ranged from several hundred people to 10,000.
Migrants traveling to the U.S. southern border from South American countries — such as Brazil and Chile, where tens of thousands of Haitians have legally resided for years but are now leaving in hopes of getting into the U.S. — must travel through Panama to get into Central America and proceed north. Panama serves as a bottleneck between the two continents.
Panama Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes said in September that the country “sounded the alarm” about the unprecedented spike in migration but that the Biden administration has not responded to its alert. Another 60,000 Haitians are headed to the U.S. beyond the 20,000 who made it to Del Rio last month. Another 30,000 Haitian migrants are in Colombia attempting to cross the border into Panama.
"We've engaged with every single authority that we can think of, that we can come across, to say, 'Please, let's pay attention to this,'" Mouynes told Axios.
“I’ve never seen this,” Abbott said during a radio interview on the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show on Sept. 29. “We have multiple reports about different caravans coming to different regions across the border. And so what we’re going to do in response to it as we are preparing, as we speak, is exactly what you saw at the apex moment when people were coming across the river in Del Rio.”
Abbott cited a multistep process for responding to the groups as they arrive. As was done in Del Rio, hundreds of police and military vehicles will line up along the border to deter people from crossing and detain people who attempt to cross.
When the Department of Public Safety and National Guard moved to Del Rio nearly two weeks ago, migrants stopped crossing at the international bridge. Instead, they went upstream and downstream to cross where police were not present. The state is first focused on identifying where the groups will attempt to cross before setting up barricades and lining up parked vehicles.
"When the recent caravan of thousands of Haitian migrants crossed into Del Rio, Governor Abbott surged additional law enforcement personnel to the region and directed the National Guard and DPS to create a steel barrier with hundreds of their vehicles and humvees to deter further crossings," Eze wrote in an email. "This successful strategy, which Border Patrol agents have credited for stopping the flow of Haitian migrants, will be utilized for other caravans headed towards our southern border. Texas will continue surging state resources and stepping up in the federal government’s absence to secure our border and protect Texans.”
DPS declined to disclose the exact number of personnel dispatched to the border as part of this latest initiative. The Texas National Guard did not respond to a request for comment.
State troopers and local law enforcement cannot arrest illegal immigrants for suspected immigration violations, which are only enforceable by federal police. However, the state moved in June to arrest people who violate trespassing laws, a state offense prosecutable at the county level.
“We stepped up and created our own court system in south Texas, where we are arresting and processing and then jailing people who are coming across the border for criminal trespass,” Abbott said in the radio interview. “Because I declared a disaster in this region along the border, it immediately elevates the time in jail and the penalties for trespass in the state of Texas and it turns it into a six-month to a year behind bar penalty."
The state made available several thousand jail cells, and more than 1,000 people were in jail as of late September.
But Texas alone will struggle to arrest as many people as the federal government thinks could illegally cross in October. Beyond the 60,000 Haitians expected in the coming weeks, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is concerned up to 400,000 could be encountered illegally crossing this month if border protocols are lifted, NBC reported.
The 400,000 figure would be roughly 10 times higher than the average month over the past decade and far beyond the 78,000 in January when President Joe Biden took office.
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Original Author: Anna Giaritelli
Original Location: Texas braces for surge of 60,000 Haitian migrants