The Border Situation At Eagle Pass, Texas, Grows Tense

Originally published on February 7, 2019 8:24 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news now - about 200 troops are on the border town - in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. In a Mexican town just across the Rio Grande, there are more than 1,000 Central American migrants. They are hoping to gain asylum into the - in the United States. Joey Palacios of Texas Public Radio reports the situation is getting tense.

JOEY PALACIOS, BYLINE: In Eagle Pass, there's a vibrant shopping district right along the border. Leslie Rodriguez works in this district. She says the presence of the migrants across the border less than two miles away in Piedras Negras is affecting some business here, where people would shop between the two cities.

LESLIE RODRIGUEZ: Because a lot of people are not coming because they've been closing the bridges, so people can't cross neither back nor forth.

PALACIOS: Over the last few days, traffic has been stopped on the bridge so Border Patrol agents can conduct drills to prepare for what some say are potential mass crossings. Rodriguez says border agents would only ask for paperwork and declarations. But now they're checking bags and more.

RODRIGUEZ: The other time I cross walking and they made me open my sweater and touched my stomach to see if I don't have nothing with me. So yeah, that has changed because they wouldn't do that before.

PALACIOS: 1,700 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are now in northern Mexico. She says since their arrival, there has been a dramatic increase of law enforcement around the border and in the city. About a mile away, underneath the other international bridge, Camino Real, Border Patrol vehicles are set up about 50 feet apart. There's no wall or physical barrier here, just the Rio Grande. Paul Del Rincon is the Eagle Pass port director for Customs and Border Protection.

PAUL DEL RINCON: CBP has reinforced the front line with personnel in advance of an intended caravan arriving here.

PALACIOS: That includes more than 200 active duty troops. In the distance, other Border Patrol agents are mounted on horses. At a press conference at the bridge, Del Rincon explains the urgency in getting the message to migrants that the asylum process will take time.

DEL RINCON: We ask that you be patient with our processes and wait until you are called.

PALACIOS: CPB says it can only process between 16 and 20 asylum cases per day as hundreds more wait across the border. Many, like Rodriguez, recognize why the migrants are here.

RODRIGUEZ: I don't think they're here to harm people. It's like any other people. They just want a better future for their family.

PALACIOS: For NPR News, I'm Joy Palacios in Eagle Pass, Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRISTEZA'S "BALABARISTAS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.