Texas is going to shut down six points of entry along the US-Mexico border amid a massive surge of migration, Governor Greg Abbott announced.
“I have directed the Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to surge personnel and vehicles to shut down six points of entry along the southern border to stop these caravans from overrunning our state,” Xinhua news agency quoted Abbott as saying in a statement.
“The border crisis is so dire that the US Customs and Border Protection is requesting our help as their agents are overwhelmed by the chaos,” the Governor said, slamming President Joe Biden’s administration for “the sheer negligence” to secure the border.
Marsha Espinosa, spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security, told CNN on Thursday that it “is not seeking assistance from the State of Texas to shut down ports of entry”.
“It would be a violation of federal law for the Texas National Guard to unilaterally do so,” the spokesperson said.
Local media reported on Thursday that in Del Rio, a city of 35,000 residents in southwestern Texas, thousands of migrants, mostly from Haiti, huddled in dirty conditions in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge, waiting to turn themselves in to the US Border Patrol and seek asylum.
“Six, seven days ago, Del Rio saw 400 migrants sitting, underneath the bridge, the (point of entry) in downtown Del Rio, there’s about 6,000 sitting there right now and more are coming,” Victor Escalon, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, said earlier on Thursday.
All the points of entry to Del Rio will be shut down due to the overwhelming number of migrants there, he said.
There were about 9,000 “really anxious and stressed” migrants under the bridge waiting to get processed, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano said on Thursday, asking the federal government to support the city.
The authorities and city officials are expecting thousands more to cross the ankle-deep river between Mexico and Del Rio in the coming days, said a report from The New York Times (NYT).
The US Border Patrol said it would send more agents to the region “to immediately address the current level of migrant encounters and to facilitate a safe, humane and orderly process”. according to the report.
The scene of dense crowds sleeping on dirt or milling about amid conditions of deteriorating sanitation drew condemnations from local officials, said the NYT report.
The city mayor said that in the temporary camp under the bridge, there was little access to clean water and food and there were just a few portable toilets.
Also on Thursday, a federal judge blocked the Biden administration from turning away migrant families with children under a public health order related to the Covid-19 pandemic, marking a defeat for the administration.
Last month, another federal judge in Texas ordered the Biden administration to revive a border policy adopted in the era of former President Donald Trump that required migrants to stay in Mexico until their cases were heard in US immigration courts.
US-Mexico border arrests have reportedly stayed at the highest level in more than two decades, with more than 208,000 registered in August alone.