(The Center Square) – On Sunday night, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it was closing international railroad bridges at two major ports of entry in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas, after a surge of over 4,000 people illegally entered over the last 48 hours.
CBP reported that agents apprehended nearly 3,000 illegal foreign nationals on Saturday and Sunday in the Eagle Pass area alone. Groups of 400 came through at a time, undeterred by border barriers erected by Gov. Greg Abbott through Operation Lone Star. Without OLS, little to no law enforcement presence would exist in the region, officials have explained, because Border Patrol agents have been tasked with processing people to release them into the country.
Border Patrol agents also apprehended roughly 1,300 in El Paso hundreds of miles west over the last 48 hours, according to officials. The two regions have seen unprecedented numbers of illegal entries this year, with Gov. Abbott surging resources to both areas. He’s also directed OLS soldiers to erect concertina wire and marine barriers in the Eagle Pass area, prompting two lawsuits with the federal government, which are both before the 5th Circuit.
“CBP is continuing to surge all available resources to safely process migrants in response to increased levels of migrant encounters at the Southwest Border, fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals,” the agency announced in a news release. It also said it was working with Mexican authorities to stop the flow of people pouring into the U.S. “After observing a recent resurgence of smuggling organizations moving migrants through Mexico via freight trains, CBP is taking additional actions to surge personnel and address this concerning development, including in partnership with Mexican authorities,” it said.
On Monday morning, the federal government will be temporarily halting trains from transporting goods and cargo from Mexico into the U.S. on international bridges, it said. CBP Office of Field Operations staff normally responsible for checks at ports of entry will be tasked with processing foreign nationals illegally entering between ports of entry instead.
“Beginning December 18, 2023, at 8:00 AM local time, CBP’s Office of Field Operations will temporarily suspend operations at the international railway crossing bridges in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas in order to redirect personnel to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with taking migrants into custody,” CBP said, adding that it will prioritize border security “as necessary in response to this evolving situation.”
As the majority of Border Patrol agents have been pulled from the field to process people illegally entering between ports of entry, critics have argued the border has been left wide open with little to no one to patrol and detect illegal activity. While CBP claims to prioritize border security, former Border Patrol chiefs have said it’s just a matter of time before a terrorist attack occurs because of those who came in undetected.
Former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Chief Mark Morgan said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas should be prioritizing “How many aliens on the Terror Watchlist or Special Interest Aliens, who come from countries we know sponsor or harbor terrorist organizations, are among the [close to 1.7 million] known gotaways who have entered our country under his watch. The answer is – he has no idea. It’s not if, and when, the threat arrives in our homeland. It’s already here.”
CBP says it was continuing “to adjust our operational plans to maximize enforcement efforts against those noncitizens who do not use lawful pathways or processes” like the CBP One App, and “has made a number of operational adjustments in order to maximize our ability to respond, process, and enforce consequences.”
Before CBP announced it was blocking international railway traffic, it suspended vehicular processing in Eagle Pass at International Bridge 1 last month, The Center Square previously reported. It did so after the city declared a state of emergency and Gov. Abbott surged resources there.
CBP also suspended San Ysidro’s Pedestrian West operations in CBP’s San Diego Sector and closed ports of entry in Lukeville, Arizona.
These areas have been hard-hit, as well as two key areas in Texas. Tucson Sector Chief John Modlin said that in one week, agents apprehended a record 18,400 people. They did so while they were also assisting in 104 federal criminal cases, 13 rescue missions, interdicted seven human smuggling attempts, three narcotics smuggling attempts, arrested three sex offenders, and seized two firearms and one stolen vehicle.
Over the previous weekend, in addition to over 20,000 apprehensions nationwide, Border Patrol Chief Jason Owen said agents arrested three sex offenders and three gang members with prior convictions of violent crimes.
CBP is encouraging members of the traveling public—those seeking to legally enter, conduct trade or commerce at the currently or soon to be closed ports of entry in Texas, California and Arizona—to check operational status, including Port of Entry wait times online.