For the fifth-straight day since arriving at the Texas-Mexico border, roughly 1,600 Central American migrants intent on seeking asylum in the U.S. are playing a frustrating waiting game in Mexico.
The migrants, who are mostly Honduran, are being housed in a former warehouse in Piedras Negras — and being guarded by Mexican law enforcement — while they wait to be let into the U.S.
But U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers are only able to process about 20 of the migrants a day, CNN reported, meaning progress is exceedingly slow, and tensions are high. Only a limited number of the migrants who have been given humanitarian visas by the Mexican government can leave the make-shift shelter; some others have asked to be returned to their home countries, the AP reported.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has joined the U.S. Border Patrol in stationing agents in Eagle Pass, Texas — on the banks of the north side of the Rio Grande. They're meant to deter any migrants who might choose to cross the river instead of waiting their turn in Mexico.
“As part of our border security plan we keep DPS on the border with boats & planes. They work with local & federal authorities to enforce the law,” Gov. Abbott tweeted alongside a picture of the law enforcement build up.
State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, said the agencies’ show of force so far has had the desired effect: to promote order and prevent a large number of migrants from crossing the river.
Nevárez, who chairs the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security, was in Eagle Pass on Friday for a briefing that also included U.S. Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Homeland Security and local officials. He said he expected parts of the migrant caravan to splinter off and try to cross the river should U.S. authorities continue processing applicants at the current pace.
“The longer you stay over there, you become prey,” Nevárez said, referring to the omnipresent criminal gangs that go after migrants in Mexican border towns. “That desperation will lead them to not wait to see if they are one of the ten or 15 or 20 that cross a day.”
It’s unclear how long the Mexican government will be able to provide for the large group, or if officials there will begin to deport some of the asylum-seekers back to Central America.
The latest caravan has caught the attention of President Donald Trump. He referenced the group during Tuesday’s State of the Union address as he explained why he continues to push Congress to fund his long-promised border barrier.
His administration has deployed 250 active-duty military personnel to Eagle Pass to assist in border-security operations.