EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The mayor of El Paso late last week warned of a shelter system at a “breaking point” with 7,000 migrants in processing centers, 2,000 more coming across the Rio Grande daily, and another 2,000 waiting on the other side of the border wall.
And while the city’s migrant dashboard online reporting tool still showed more than 6,100 migrants at El Paso-area processing centers on Monday, the number of people waiting by the border wall is beginning to decrease.
A KTSM/Border Report camera crew spotted some 400 migrants by the border wall and few making their way from Central Juarez to the Rio Grande. “I think it’s better to wait. If they are giving us the opportunity to enter using the (CBP One) app, we should wait,” said Claudia Moreno, a migrant from the Southern Mexico state of Guerrero.
The budding slowdown comes after a high-level meeting between U.S. and Mexican officials late Friday in Juarez. The officials discussed security measures in response to the new surge in Juarez-El Paso, Piedras Negras-Eagle Pass, Texas, and the Sonora-Arizona border, among others.
“We are continuing to work closely with our partners in Mexico to increase security and address irregular migration along our shared border,” said Troy A. Miller, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “The United States and Mexico remain committed to stemming the flow of irregular migration driven by unscrupulous smugglers, while maintaining access to lawful pathways.”
Chihuahua state Public Safety Director Gilberto Loya, who attended the meeting at the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, said Mexican officials pledged to step up cargo train inspections from Central Mexico to border cities. Officials from both countries say this is how many of the migrants in this latest surge are traveling to the border.
“We have conducted operations in support of (the federal government) at the Mexican railyard in Chihuahua City and the tracks from Chihuahua to Juarez,” Loya said at a news conference on Monday.
He said the state police got 250 migrants off the top of trains in Chihuahua. The intent was to take them to shelters or route them to the Mexican National Migration Institute, but that only 22 agreed to go.
Loya said Chihuahua state authorities will continue to crack down on train riders out of concern for their safety.
The state police chief said his agency has documented 512 public safety incidents in Chihuahua involving migrants. Most of those involve migrants being struck by cars and disagreements that end in fisticuffs.
But he said the number of kidnappings and extortion cases have increased substantially and fears the situation will spiral out of control if the Mexican federal government does not come up with a clear migration policy.
“We are not against migration, but we are in favor of an organized migration,” Loya said. “It is a very important matter and one that must be addressed through national public policy.”
Loya said organized criminal groups are not only taking advantage of vulnerable migrants but also trying to recruit some of them as foot soldiers.
“We have seen migrants (driving) vehicles that we know are vehicles involved in human trafficking … (they’re) not being trafficked themselves, but moving around the city as if they were part of organized crime,” Loya said. “This issue is becoming more complex […] If it is not addressed, this problem will continue to grow and by the time we have a public policy, organized crime will not be willing to release this $100 million a month business.”
Claudia Hernandez, a Venezuelan migrant waiting in Juarez for an asylum appointment in the U.S., said it’s not just the people coming in trains who are crossing the Rio Grande to El Paso, Texas.
“People coming in illegally are doing it because they are desperate,” Hernandez said. “People have been here for three to four months and they’re acting out of desperation, and now they know they’re letting them through, so they go. It’s not the best way, but I understand what it is like. Many are (living) on the streets, with no food, and those are the ones doing that.”
(Juarez freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report.)