EL PASO, Texas (NewsNation) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it is temporarily suspending cargo processing at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso as a way to help agents deal with a surge in migrant crossings.
The pause will free up border officers to help process migrants who cross illegally, but will force truckers who usually make that crossing to find other routes.
It is one of several fallback options CBP says it uses to make sure it can process migrants efficiently.
The last time a pause was enforced was back in April before the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era border policy. That’s when data shows the number of migrant crossings across the southern border plunged.
Now, the data reveals those numbers are creeping back up again in some sectors. El Paso data shows CBP migrant encounters are the highest since May.
Texas Sheriff Thaddeus Cleveland, a former Border Patrol officer, says this is not a good sign.
“At the ports of entry, you have field operation officers, and they’re there to make sure legitimate trade and travel passes to and from the United States. So we’re taking those people from those ports of entry to help Border Patrol because there’s simply not enough border patrol agents,” Cleveland said.
Truckers who use the Bridge of the Americas will instead need to go through other crossing points in New Mexico and Texas.
In April, officials suspended all commercial operations for three days at the same bridge for the same reason.
The head of a truckers’ association in Juarez, Mexico, told Border Report back then that the detours and long lines could cost the industry $10 million per day.
Last week, CBP also closed Ped West, a pedestrian border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego, to free up additional officers to help with migrant processing. CBP facilities in the San Diego area have been over capacity, with agents dropping off hundreds of migrants in daily street releases.
“CBP is working according to plan and as part of our standard processes to quickly decompress the areas along the southwest border, and safely and efficiently screen and process migrants to place them in immigration enforcement proceedings consistent with our laws,” CBP said in a statement.
Additionally, street releases of dozens of migrants in rural Cochise County in Arizona last week are prompting concern and frustration among local officials.
“We don’t have the basic essentials and needs that most people have. That’s why they take them to urban areas where they have more logistical support,” Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said.
The Mexican government said cargo processing at the Juarez-El Paso crossing should open in two or three days, according to Reuters.
However, U.S. officials have not given a timeline to when the crossing will reopen.