McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Since Election Day, the Department of Homeland Security has been preparing for an onslaught of Central American migrants who are being driven by cartel organizations to try to enter the U.S. Southwest border, according to a South Texas congressman.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Border Report on Friday afternoon that he was briefed by DHS a couple weeks ago “that the bad guys are starting to promote to people of Central America and Mexico that ‘the border will be open; it will be different so start getting ready to come.'”
Cuellar is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee and privy to information on the agency’s maneuvers and preparations as it relates to anticipated expenditures and federal costs.
Cuellar said drug cartels are “promoting and staging” migrants in large numbers to begin heading north, making them believe that a White House run by Democratic President-elect Joe Biden will be much more lenient than the Trump administration with regards to asylum claims.
Cuellar has not been told exact numbers, however, and he said he doubts that a single, large caravan of thousands will form like the thousands who walked for days in the fall of 2018 from Honduras.
The Associated Press reports that a caravan of migrants formed Wednesday night in the northern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula and began walking toward the border with Guatemala. The group comprised up to 600 before they were turned away at Guatemala’s southern border because they couldn’t show travel documents or proof of negative coronavirus tests.
Cuellar said last week he met with Mexican foreign affairs officials who have promised to continue to beef up security at Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala to help keep undocumented migrants from entering Mexico.
“They still want to continue securing their southern border, which I think is good for us,” Cuellar said.
Homeland Security officials stressed during the briefing with Cuellar that the border wall is key to keeping out caravans and groups of migrants. “We got personnel, we got equipment, we’re working with Mexico,” DHS officials also told Cuellar, the congressman said.
“We are monitoring potential migratory trends and continuously evaluating resources,” said CBP Public Affairs Specialist Matthew Dyman told Border Report.
On Friday afternoon, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf announced he would travel to Central America next week “and discuss broader security issues impacting the region.” Wolf is scheduled to travel Dec. 13-16 to Panama City, Panama, and San Salvador, El Salvador.
El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are three countries that comprise what is called is the Northern Triangle, from where hundreds of thousands of migrants have traveled north attempting to cross into the United States, usually in South Texas, since early 2014.
Wolf is slated to meet with El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele to discuss El Salvador’s implementation of the Asylum Cooperative Agreement (ACA) that was signed in September 2019, according to a DHS statement.
Under the Trump administration, similar agreements were reached with all three countries in the Northern Triangle to stop the flow northward of migrants, to encourage migrants to stay in those countries and to share data on migration with the United States.
DHS officials say prior to these agreements, over 72% of all migrants apprehended at the Southwest border through August of fiscal year 2019 were from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.