EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials confirmed they deployed “port hardening measures” just before 2 a.m. Monday in order to control a “large and unruly group” that formed on the Mexican side of the Paso Del Norte Bridge and “posed a threat to overrun the facility.”
A witness who spoke with KTSM at the base of the bridge said he estimated a group of approximately 300 migrants attempted to cross the bridge, chanting “Vamos a cruzar,” Spanish for “We’re going to cross.”
The man said he became fearful for his family once he saw the immediate deployment of CBP officers and Border Patrol agents, and he attempted to quickly get his family into El Paso before CBP closed all lanes of traffic.
KTSM’s Juarez correspondent confirmed the group consisted of about 250 Cuban and El Salvadoran migrants who had been gathered at the port since about midnight.
Traffic cameras from the scene showed deployed barriers and concertina wire along all lanes of traffic. El Paso Police confirmed to KTSM they were notified by CBP of a protest on the bridge that was affecting traffic.
El Paso Police closed 6th Avenue at Oregon Street and 6th Avenue at El Paso Street to pedestrian and vehicle traffic in order to assist CBP.
Witnesses in Juarez said CBP was apparently expecting the group and allegedly fired tear gas at the crowd to disperse them.
As of 6 a.m., the migrants were no longer gathered at the base of the Paso Del Norte in Juarez. Pedestrian lanes were reopened at 5:25 a.m. and El Paso Police reopened Downtown streets to allow travel near the bridge.
One lane of northbound traffic was opened at approximately 7 a.m. By about 8:30 a.m., four traffic lanes had reopened and traffic was slowly flowing into El Paso.
A news release from CBP states that multiple agencies responded to the overnight event, including CBP Mobile Field Force and Special Response Team members were deployed to the facility. U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Protective Services, and the El Paso Police Department.