Eagle Pass, Texas – Around 6:30 a.m., scores of migrants, including parents carrying young babies and children, between the endless razor wire and the Rio Grande, pleaded with the Texas National Guard to allow them safe passage into the United States.
“Please, let us pass,” a woman in the river shouted in Spanish. “Let's pass,” shouted another migrant. “There are children in the water,” said one man.
The pleas of the migrants and the cries of the children quickly drowned out the instructions of the guards armed with rifles. Pointing their flashlights toward the river, the guards told the migrants in their broken Spanish to go back.
“It's illegal to cross here,” remarked a guard.
“It's not safe,” another National Guard member said as he watched migrants try to get through the wire.
screamed a teenager who appeared to be cutting himself on the wire. A mother saw her son caught in a clothes line and other migrants told him to calm down. Instructed to intervene only in extraordinary life-or-death situations, Texas National Guard soldiers could barely watch.
Despite their struggles, the immigrants gradually made their way through the concert wire that Wednesday morning. The guards, who lacked the authority to enforce federal immigration law, directed them to walk down a dirt road processed by border patrol agents who were nowhere to be found. The migrants started walking in line.
Earlier in the day, this reporter saw a similar scene. Dozens of migrants, including small children, crawled into the United States through a small breach in the concertina wire. A mother helped drag other migrants, including a boy, under the wire as some of the women cried. At the same location, a man pushed his young son through the wire before handing over his daughter, a toddler, to her brother. As the daughter continued to cry, the boy helped his father cross the wire.
Immigrants changed after entering America, leaving wet pants and shirts on the dirt road, which was littered with countless discarded clothes and trash.
“I never thought something like this would happen.”
These gruesome scenes have become a near daily occurrenceNow the busiest sector of illegal crossings is the remote Tucson Sector in Arizona, where smugglers are cutting sections of the border wall to allow immigrants into the United States.
Undeterred by the razor wire assembled by Texas state officials, the federal border wall and extensionDesigned to reduce illegal entries, US-Mexico border in unprecedented numbers in recent days.
In just five days last week, Border Patrol agents processed nearly 50,000 immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, with daily apprehensions exceeding 10,000, up from an average of 6,400 last month, according to federal data obtained by CBS News. About 1,500 additional immigrants are processed each day at official border crossings under the Biden program, which is operated through a phone app.
Record levels of unauthorized crossings have strained federal and local resources in communities across the United States — from small towns like Eagle Pass, Jacumba Hot Springs, California, and Lukeville, Arizona — to large cities like Denver and Chicago.. It has also raised immigration politics. On the defensive ahead of the 2024 elections.
White House and Senate Democrats are currently pushing hard limits on expanding asylum and detention restrictions and deportations to push Republicans to provide more aid to Ukraine.Underway, lawmakers have signaled they want to reach a deal in the next few weeks.
In the Border Patrol's Del Rio Division, which includes Eagle Pass, the agency has processed 4,000 immigrants in a 24-hour period in recent days, the highest for the region, internal data show.
“Illegal border crossings have always happened,” said Eagle Pass Fire Chief Manuel Mello, who started as a local firefighter in the 1990s. “Groups of 10, 12 people — that's a big group. But now you see 3,000 and 4,000 people in one day. I never thought something like this would happen.”
“It was terrible for my child.”
Border Patrol agents in Eagle Pass set up a temporary outdoor holding area this month to oversee the migrants until they can be transported to processing facilities. For days, thousands of migrant men, women and children slept on this platform between two international bridges, braving overnight temperatures as low as 50 degrees.
In the wee hours of the morning, mothers and fathers wrapped their children in Mylar blankets distributed by Border Patrol agents, while hundreds of grown men waited restlessly on the other side of the orange construction fence that separated them from families with minors. Other migrants lined up to use porta-potties brought by border guards.
Officials and volunteers distributed water and some food, including baby formula served in plastic bottles. But the migrants faced an indefinite wait. As Border Patrol vans and buses escorted some of the evacuees away from the staging area, other vehicles brought new arrivals across the Rio Grande.
Wrapping a Mylar blanket around her back, immigrant Andrea Diaz from Colombia said she and her family spent two nights sleeping in an outdoor drag area, not knowing when they would be processed.
“It was terrible for my baby. I'm very worried. She cried a lot,” Diaz said in Spanish as she waited in line to receive infant formula for her 4-month-old daughter.
“The cold is very penetrating at dawn,” interrupted Diaz's husband, Jorge Villa, as he held the child in his arms.
Diaz said he fled his hometown of Usme, near Colombia's capital Bogotá, because his teenage son was threatened by guerrilla fighters. The family said they were willing to help their relatives in Chicago settle there.
Asked if the trip to the U.S. was worth it, given what his family had gone through so far, Diaz said, “If God willed, this effort would have given it all.”
“We sold everything we had in Colombia to make this trip,” Diaz said.
Andy Court and Annabelle Hanflig contributed reporting.
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