JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – The large crowds of asylum-seekers waiting to enter the U.S. by Gate 36 of the border wall in El Paso are gone.
The few single adults and family units that approached the Rio Grande on Wednesday were met by a freshly dug 4-foot-deep trench on the Mexican side and an increased presence of Texas National Guard troops on the U.S. side.
“You cannot cross here. It is illegal. This is a crime. You are committing a crime. You cannot cross anywhere except a legal port of entry,” shouted an unidentified Texas National Guard official at a small group of migrants who waded across the river from Juarez, Mexico.
Most of the migrants stayed in the water, pleading with the soldiers to let them in. One tried to lift barbwire along the U.S. levee, but two soldiers quickly placed additional razor wire in front of him. A few of the migrants swam back with their belongings.
“This is unfair. We have been here (in Mexico) more than a month and (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) has not approved a date for an interview. We cannot wait any longer,” said Diego, one of the migrants who swam back. He planned to take a break, catch his breath and then try to cross into the U.S. farther downstream where no soldiers were present.
On the Mexican side, Juarez police were patrolling the levee with marked trucks and all-terrain vehicles. About 200 miles to the south, Mexican federal and Chihuahua state officers are getting migrants off the top of cargo trains and checking for visitor’s visas.
The stepped-up enforcement on this stretch of U.S.-Mexico border comes days after the mayor of El Paso said the region was at “a breaking point” due to the massive number of migrants being released from CBP custody.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott responded by ordering the deployment of additional National Guard troops to the border and availing buses to take migrants out of El Paso and Eagle Pass.
“President Biden’s continued refusal to secure our border invites thousands of illegal crossings into Texas and our nation each day,” Abbott said last week. “Texas communities like Eagle Pass and El Paso should not have to shoulder the unprecedented surge of illegal immigration caused by President Biden’s reckless open border policies.”
And while the crowds may be gone from the border wall in El Paso, the migrants as well as some local government officials say many more are on the way.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens “told us not to even think about it, that the numbers are not going to drop,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said on Tuesday. “He told us he will support us and also that the numbers will go up. What they are seeing is the increase in people crossing from Colombia to the (Darian) gap.”
Samaniego said the migrants have made a tremendous financial and emotional commitment that they are unlikely to turn back. “They’re not going to go back to Colombia, they are going to come through all the way. Those numbers are increasingly very rapidly,” he said.
Venezuelan migrant Diego, who came to Juarez on top of a train, said he was heartened by some of his relatives being allowed into El Paso and released from CBP custody a few days later. He said that is one of the reasons why he decided to attempt his crossing now and said many other of his countrymen are on the way from southern Mexico after hearing those stories.
“It is a matter of luck,” said Venezuelan asylum-seeker Adriana Urena. “We have been here for a month, and I have a cousin who crossed the Darien (gap). We were waiting for a (CBP One app) appointment but that’s not an option anymore. Many people don’t have the resources to continue waiting.”
Urena said she was not expecting “hostility” from the soldiers. On Wednesday, she decided to wait in Juarez another day. She has no plans to return to Venezuela.