U.S. Military Sends 200 Troops To Eagle Pass, Texas, To Reinforce Port Of Entry

Feb 6, 2019
Originally published on February 6, 2019 9:05 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we're going to head to Eagle Pass, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border. That's where the U.S. military sent 200 troops last night. They are reinforcing the port of entry because across the border, there are more than a thousand migrants camped out who want to enter the U.S. Jose Palacios of Texas Public Radio is there and joins us now. Hi, Joey.

JOEY PALACIOS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: I know you attended a news conference from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol there at Eagle Pass - U.S. Customs and Border Protection rather. What did they have to say?

PALACIOS: Well, Ari, what they said - about 100 people have been arrested just yesterday alone for trying to cross the border illegally here, 50 of which were in the area known as the Camino Real Bridge, which is where I am right now. It's also known as Bridge II. This part of the border that's worth noting, it doesn't have much of a physical barrier. There's no wall here. And it's easy to cross people - excuse me - to cross back and forth if somebody tried, which may be one of the reasons why that the migrants have chosen to come here in Piedras Negras. One thing I noticed in driving the area is that there are Border Patrol vehicles aligned under the bridge, and further down, there are numerous state trooper vehicles. Now, there's two points of entry here. It's kind of a similar story there at the International Bridge I.

They also said that during a news conference that law enforcement are preparing for potential waves of people to cross the border. So they're holding drills and exercises in case that happens. And they said that they've had to stop traffic on the bridge for about 15 minutes at a time to do these exercises. Customs and Border Protection has reinforced areas here at these points of entry. And they've also said that the current system isn't really sustainable. And officials say that they're doing everything they can to facilitate regular trade and travel.

SHAPIRO: Eagle Pass a small border town. What kind of ability does it have to handle migrants coming in?

PALACIOS: Well, it's a small town, so not much. We've heard CBP officials say that they're only able to process about 16 applications for asylum per day. And that's because each one takes a few hours. And because this is a small town, there's not a lot of government officials to do more than that. And we should point out that customs offices all along the border regularly turn away asylum-seekers due to a lack of space.

SHAPIRO: These people are part of the latest caravan that the president has - President Trump has railed about. Who are they exactly? What can you tell us about them?

PALACIOS: Well, what we know is there's a little less than 2,000, and they all appear to be from Central America. Most of them are from Honduras. Others are from El Salvador. Others are from Guatemala. Now, about 200 are Guatemalan, and we spoke to the Guatemalan consulate here who has been spending time across the border in Piedras Negras. He has been counseling them, saying that it won't be easy. And he says that desperation is what is driving these migrants to come here and that he tells them that it's a dangerous journey and the asylum process is long. But he also wants to send a message here to the locals of Eagle Pass and other border towns to remain calm during this situation, that this is a humanitarian issue and that panic doesn't really do anyone any good.

SHAPIRO: I know you spent today talking with people in Eagle Pass about what's happening. What have they told you?

PALACIOS: Well, we know the military dropped in last night, but, interestingly enough, I haven't really seen any yet. So what we've seen, though, is a lot of Texas state troopers and that they were sent in earlier this week. One woman I spoke to, her name is Leslie Rodriguez (ph). She says that what she has noticed is it's taking a lot longer to get across the border. You could just pass through, show your paperwork and say - just say what you're declaring. Now they are checking bags and doing more thorough initiatives.

SHAPIRO: That's Texas Public Radio's Joey Palacios speaking with us from Eagle Pass, Texas. Thanks a lot, Joey.

PALACIOS: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.