EL PASO, Texas (Border Patrol) – Wearing jackets, wrapped in blankets and even lighting small fires to keep warm, asylum seekers continue to line up by the hundreds along the Rio Grande in hopes of getting asylum.
A handful of small fires could be seen on the U.S. banks of the river early Thursday as migrants from Central and South America waited for U.S. Border Patrol agents to give them the green light to approach a gap in the border wall and surrender.
The Border Patrol set up a temporary processing camp in the area called West Bridge but dismantled it earlier this month. Migrants interviewed along the river told a KTSM/Border Report camera crew that the Border Patrol is now allowing them across in groups of 150 at a time. Once on the other side of the wall, they are placed in buses and transported to the Central Processing Center in Northeast El Paso.
The migrants said sometimes it takes an hour or more for the buses to show up.
Migrant apprehensions in the El Paso Sector are averaging 2,500 a day, including asylum seekers who surrender to border agents and economic migrants who try to elude capture.
Thursday morning’s freezing temperatures made for a hard night, some of the migrants said.
“It’s been a difficult journey but it’s almost over,” said Marlon Pineda, a migrant from Nicaragua waiting for a Border Patrol bus to show up around 9 a.m.
Pineda said he borrowed money in his homeland to come to the U.S.-Mexico border. His trip was cut short several times and the weather conditions are the least of his worries.
“They told us they were going to drop us off (at the border), but on the way here some people got in and took a lot of money from us; they left us with nothing,” Pineda said. “We walked on train tracks, we walked over mountains. We slept on the mountains, we slept in parks.”
He and his travel companions initially were riding a van. After being robbed, he hitched a ride on a Mexican bus headed to the border. “The bus people were honest, they helped us get here,” he said. “We do all this for a better life for our family.”
The line of migrants on the river levee included citizens of Nicaragua, Venezuela, Guatemala and other countries. Some said they were aware of the impending end of the Title 42 public health order that prevents them from walking to U.S. ports of entry and requesting asylum there but added they had run out of money to wait in Mexico any longer.
(Juarez freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report.)