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High migration through Texas border town of Eagle Pass strains resources


In recent days, more than 4,000 migrants have crossed from Mexico into the small southwest Texas border city of Eagle Pass. It is part of a larger recent surge in crossings all along the southern border. The increase in migrants, many from Venezuela, has strained local, state and federal resources there. The mayor of Eagle Pass has declared a state of disaster and is asking for additional help. Joining us now from Eagle Pass is Texas Public Radio reporter Gaige Davila. And, Gaige, this is a small town. Less than 30,000 people live there. What have you been seeing on the ground as you've been traveling there?

GAIGE DAVILA, BYLINE: Well, right now one of the two international bridges is closed, which has caused a lot of traffic on the lone operating bridge. Under one of those bridges, the one still currently allowing vehicle traffic, is where the migrants are being processed. At one point, there were hundreds of people there, but it's fluctuating. There's lots of migrants. But the various authorities handling the influx are doing as best as they can. The city only has one shelter, and that shelter is over capacity. So that's put a big strain on first responders. So now migrants are now being sent to Laredo and San Antonio. The Eagle Pass mayor, Rolando Salinas Jr., tells me he expects several thousand more migrants to cross through the city in the coming days.

ROLANDO SALINAS: This is really not normal - nothing that we've seen ever, really, to have so many people crossing in without consequence and congregating at the international bridge.

DAVILA: And Governor Abbott on social media has lashed out at the Federal Government for not doing more to stop illegal crossings. And he said he is deploying additional National Guard forces to the border to, quote, "repel illegal crossings" and install more razor wire.

SUMMERS: Eagle Pass is the epicenter of the governor's efforts to deter illegal crossings. Folks may remember he deployed a floating barrier in the Rio Grande there. Why are so many migrants attempting to cross at Eagle Pass rather than elsewhere along the border?

DAVILA: Well, logistically, it's because migrants are hopping trains in Mexico that are heading towards Eagle Pass. Those trains have since been shut down, but the migrants then walk the rest of the way through routes that have been made by previous migrants. Eagle Pass' mayor says it's because word has gone around among migrants that Eagle Pass is safer to cross through. And in terms of response, CBP says it's much better prepared than they were two years ago in Del Rio, Texas, when there was a much larger surge. The agency says it has more infrastructure in place and is better prepared to deal with big influxes. For example, they moved almost all of the migrants out from under the bridge in Eagle Pass within 18 hours.

SUMMERS: Gaige, I just want to step back for a second here and ask you, how does the situation there in Eagle Pass compare with what we're seeing on the rest of the southern border?

DAVILA: Well, crossings are climbing across the border. Just in the first half of September, U.S. immigration authorities encountered more than 142,000 migrants at the southern border. That data is from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That was shared by the President of Mexico at a press conference yesterday. Now, initially the number of migrants arriving at the U.S. border had dropped in May and June after the U.S. rolled out sharp new limits on asylum. But the numbers have been climbing steadily ever since, so now we're on pace to match some of the record highs we saw last year. And one place where that is apparent is in El Paso, which has seen more crossings in the last few days...


DAVILA: ...And is poised to be another hyperactive area.

SUMMERS: That's Texas Public Radio's Gaige Davila in Eagle Pass. Thank you.

DAVILA: Thank you.


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Gaige Davila | TPR