The Eagle Pass area in Texas continues to experience an influx of migrants — the majority from Venezuela, the largest displacement in the Western Hemisphere and the second-largest globally, trailing only behind the Syrian refugee crisis, per the U.N. refugee agency.
U.S. border authorities told VOA they have seen this before and are managing the situation.
“We have a plan, we are executing that plan,” a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told VOA on background — a method often used by U.S. officials to share information with reporters without being identified.
But the noticeable rise in migrant arrivals in Eagle Pass has strained local resources and overwhelmed already crowded facilities.
Last week, between 500 and 800 migrants, most from Venezuela, were waiting to be processed by Border Patrol officials under the Eagle Pass-Piedras Negras International Bridge, one of two bridges in Eagle Pass. The bridge remains closed for vehicles but open for pedestrians.
On Saturday, CBP released a statement saying they will “maximize consequences against those without a legal basis to remain in the United States.”
“CBP took immediate action in response to an increase in encounters in the Eagle Pass area, surging all available resources and swiftly and safely vetting and processing migrants,” according to the statement.
After the increased number of unauthorized crossings, Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas Jr. signed an emergency declaration Sept. 20. In recent years, the region has become accustomed to regulating migration as it became a heavily used point for newcomers to cross into the U.S.
“The emergency declaration grants us the ability to request financial resources to provide additional services caused by the influx of undocumented immigrants,” Salinas wrote in last week's emergency declaration.
Eagle Pass is about 233 kilometers southwest of San Antonio,one of the major cities where, according to migrant advocates in the area, migrants can hope to work and blend in.
According to local news outlets, Salinas estimated that about 3,000 migrants crossed the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass last week. On Friday alone, between 800 and 1,000 migrants were apprehended, Salinas said. CBP has not confirmed these numbers to VOA.
But the agency released its August enforcement numbers on Friday, showing total encounters along the Southwest border in August were 232,972. About 11% of those had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months. In July, that number was 183,494.
The U.N. reports that a staggering 7 million Venezuelans have left their country due to political instability, and they travel through countries including Peru and Columbia to get to the United States.
“More than 7.7 million people have left Venezuela in search of protection and a better life. The majority — more than 6.5 million people — have been hosted in Latin American and Caribbean countries,” the U.N. said.