The head of Customs and Border Protection said on Wednesday that his agency was facing a humanitarian crisis at the southern border as migrant families are being housed under a bridge in a makeshift encampment waiting to be processed by immigration officials in El Paso, Texas.
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan spoke at a press conference, in which he said the situation forced him to reassign 750 officers from nearby ports to the border with Mexico as they are needed to handle a projected record number of migrant families apprehended in March.
“That breaking point has arrived this week at our border. CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis all along our southwest border,” McAleenan said.
Reports claim the encampment, in a parking lot under the bridge, was holding “hundreds” of migrants. A border official told KVIA that the migrants are being given food, water, and medical evaluations at a tent under the bridge until they are taken elsewhere for processing.
“The tent that is set up underneath the Paso Del Norte port of entry and adjacent to the Border Patrol’s Processing Facility is a transitional shelter. Due to the large volume of apprehensions within the El Paso Station’s Area of Responsibility, the agency has undertaken additional measures to facilitate processing,” a CBP spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
“As illegal aliens arrive at the processing facility, they are placed at the ‘tent’ to await their turn to be processed. This tent serves only as a transitional shelter and is not a temporary housing facility. It was established within the last month,” the spokesperson said.
The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security had criticism to spill towards the agency for holding migrants in “horrid conditions” under the bridge.
“The situation at the southern border is further proof President Trump’s border security and immigration policies are a complete failure, and his Administration deserves much of the blame for making this humanitarian crisis worse,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat. “The Department of Homeland Security continues to block families trying to present themselves at our ports of entry, pushing them to areas between the ports of entry and adding additional stress to our border and immigration system. There is no legitimate reason for migrants to be held in horrid conditions or encamped under bridge.”
McAleenan appeared desperate to bring attention to the number of migrants at the southern border, in addition to the changing dynamic. In past years there were many single adults that crossed the border, though now it is mainly families crossing over. Agents are projected to apprehend more than 50,000 families across the border this month, which is the highest total on record since the US began tracking the statistic in 2012.