DEL RIO, Texas (Border Report) — About 1,000 Texas state troopers and National Guard members surged to the remote Texas border town of Del Rio where migrants who desperately want to claim asylum in the United States have surrounded the international bridge.
The Del Rio International Bridge remained closed for the second day on Saturday. U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday evening shut the bridge to traffic to and from the Mexican border town of Acuña, in the state of Coahuila, as the number of migrants living under the bridge continued to grow.
As of Saturday afternoon, there were 14,812 migrants — mostly Haitians — waiting under the bridge to be processed by U.S. authorities. They were part of a caravan that entered the jungles of Panama weeks ago and made its way north.
Babies have been born under the bridge, Del Rio’s mayor said during a news conference on Saturday. The security situation has grown increasingly unstable, law enforcement and local officials told Border Report, which is why the bridge was shut down.
U.S. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, visited the region on Saturday and said it has become a “flashpoint” in failed immigration policy.
During a news conference, he expressed he’s so concerned that he asked the administration “about how many terrorists could be living under that bridge?”
“This is a humanitarian crisis. It’s a security crisis,” he said. “The law enforcement and our Customs and Border Protection forces are doing an enormous job but they need the help of the administration.”
Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano, a Democrat, said he was relieved and grateful for the additional troopers and resources sent to this remote region. Lozano has outspokenly appealed for help. He appeared on national media, toured with lawmakers from D.C. and posted videos from the bridge.
On Saturday, he announced he believes they are beginning to hear him.
“Today has been a significant change in strategy. We have much more resources that are being delivered to the Del Rio area including state and federal equipment, manpower, logistical support,” Lozano said.
CBP is sending 400 officers “to the Del Rio sector to improve control of the area. If additional staff is needed, more will be sent,” the agency posted in a statement on its website.
Federal officials also are amping up the processing of migrants, including 2,000 on Friday, the agency said.
In addition, flights are to begin from Texas to Haiti where many migrants will be repatriated to their home country, Lozano said. The flights will leave from Laughlin Air Force Base near Del Rio, which has an elongated runway capable of accommodating large planes.
But not all plans are going smoothly.
Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens told Border Report that he disagreed with the handling and timing of the bridge shut down — at 6 p.m. on a busy Friday night when many residents and locals were trying to get back to their homes across the Rio Grande for the weekend.
Some stunned motorists and pedestrians had suitcases after a week of working in the United States, some as machinists and in oil rigs in other Texas towns and had been looking forward to returning home to Acuña.
“In my opinion, it should have happened earlier,” Owens said. “But the mayor got pushback.”
He is referring to the noon local emergency declaration Lozano issued on Friday to shut down southbound lanes of the bridge. However, the international port is under federal jurisdiction, and CBP officials did not act to shut the bridge until the sun was beginning to set.
Del Rio resident Anna Hisantos said she’s fed up with migrants “invading” her small town. And she says they should be removed from the bridge.
Standing with a group of about 100 protesters near the bridge on Saturday morning she blamed President Joe Biden’s administration.
“It’s supposed to be closed but it is not. And the proof is we have more than 15,000 illegal immigrants living down under that bridge,” she said.
Rancher and former Del Rio city Councilman Lee Weathersbee, and his wife Najla, who also served on the city council, joined the protest, which coincided with a pro-Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday.
Both are 78 and Najla immigrated “the legal way,” from Palestine, where she was born, Lee said.
“This not about Trump or anybody. It’s about America. It’s about keeping our country,” he said.
Lee said he blames transnational criminal organizations that charge migrants thousands of dollars to cross the Rio Grande and who are fueling the surge.
Late Saturday, migrant advocates in South Texas reported that another caravan of 400 Haitian migrants had made its way to the northern Mexican city of Reynosa, south of McAllen, Texas.