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Border Patrol says surge in border crossings is overwhelming its resources

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A surge of migrants using new means to cross the southern border has U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) worried — and financially stretched.

“The encounter levels we are currently seeing across the southwest border are presenting a serious challenge to the men and women of [Customs and Border Protection],” said Troy A. Miller, the agency’s acting commissioner.

About 12,600 migrants were intercepted on the nearly 2,000 mile U.S. border between Monday and Tuesday, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told CNN.

The Border Patrol says those numbers are unofficial, and that it only releases formal numbers once a month, reflecting “encounters” the previous month.

But the Biden administration — which a conservative think tank found has been more aggressive at removing migrants than the Trump administration — has signaled concern through its actions and statements.

The broader picture, the agency argues, is a pattern well beyond its control.

A global refugee crisis is playing out around the world, with about 110 million people worldwide who were forced from their homes as of the end of 2022 — the most since the chaos during and after World War II, according to the United Nations.

In the Western Hemisphere, that global crisis has its own regional tinge, playing out amid economic collapse and authoritarian rule in countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua, and a rise in civil violence and targeted killings in Mexican states such as Michoacan and Guerrero, according to CBP.

So many migrants are at the border that the CBP is having to pull back staff from official ports of entry to patrol the vast spaces between — which is making the broader problem worse.

Smugglers are “recklessly putting migrants into harm’s way: in remote locations across the border, onto the tops of trains, or into the waters of the Rio Grande River,” Miller said.

He called on Congress for more funds to address emerging methods of human smuggling. 

For example, “pseudo-legitimate” travel agencies are selling migrants around the world border-flouting travel packages that route them to jurisdictions from which they can more easily enter the U.S.

And new van and bus lines operated out of the Mexican state of Sonora are dropping migrants from as far away as Bangladesh and China in the Arizona desert, where they “overwhelm” local agents.

Finally, the CBP is finding that criminal groups are helping move hundreds of people at a time — including hundreds of children — by rail up to the border.

“We’ve seen dismemberment, we’ve seen deaths, these are families, these are children,” said a source familiar with the issue.

CBP says it is racing to confront these issues.

At 8 a.m. Monday, the office of Customs and Border Protection shut down international freight rail traffic at the crossings of Eagle Pass and El Paso.

CBP explained that the rail closures in part were intended to allow the agency to redirect personnel from rail inspection to “taking migrants into custody.”

That surge in migrants was “fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals,” CBP wrote in a statement Sunday.

This redirection fuels the larger problem: The surge in undocumented migrants is contributing to a feedback loop as the border patrol closes official ports of entry to deal with unofficial entries — leading to less capacity to process official entries, leading more people to attempt crossings in the spaces between. 

That’s a problem that CBP feels it can’t easily solve, though it is attempting to increase people’s abilities to enter the U.S. immigration or asylum-seeking system through legal means to keep them from entering without documentation.

But every attempt by the agency to raise intake capacity is met by a higher number of people requesting to be taken in — and agency funds are limited. CBP is currently funded by a continuing resolution — part of a deal reached last month to avoid a government shutdown — which means its spending is capped at current levels.

The agency and its partners “need additional funding from Congress so that we can continue to effectuate consequences for those who do not use the established pathways,” Miller said.

The current interdiction of rail lines is already causing pushback, with the main U.S. rail trade group demanding Monday that the administration “immediately” open the shuttered rail crossings.

“The urgency of reopening these crossings and restoring rail service between the two nations cannot be overstated,” said Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads. 

“There are not separate U.S. and Mexican rail networks; there is only one interconnected North American rail network,” he added.

“Every day the border remains closed unleashes a cascade of delay across operations on both sides of the border, impacting customers and ultimately consumers.”

The CBP has also sought to use social media to convince migrants that the U.S. would not allow them to stay. 

A flurry of posts by the department as encounters spiked Monday sought to dissuade crossings.

“Under U.S. immigration laws, most noncitizens coming to our border are not eligible to remain in the United States,” the agency wrote Monday afternoon on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

That same afternoon, the department wrote on X that smugglers “prey on migrants — lying about U.S. immigration laws and the dangers of the journey.”

“Asylum laws do not provide for relief solely for economic reasons or for general violence.”

The administration says it is working with Mexico to control the movement of third-country migrants through that nation.

It is also spending heavily to address “the root causes of irregular migration, the purpose being so that individuals and families do not feel the need to make the expensive, dangerous, irregular migration journey north,” Blas Núñez-Neto, assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters in November

Núñez-Neto pointed to “more than $2.4 billion in humanitarian assistance to the region and nearly $3.7 billion in development, economic security, and health assistance across the Western Hemisphere.”

That carrot, however, comes with a stick. The U.S. government has deported more than 380,000 people in just the second half of this year.

“It’s really critical for people to understand that despite what human smugglers claim, the reality is that migrants who cross the U.S. border illegally and lack a lawful basis to remain will be quickly removed from the United States, and we are increasing the return to countries of origin,” Núñez-Neto added.

Source: The Hill

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