The situation with undocumented migrants flocking to the Southwest border of the United States from Mexico is only going to worsen, a senior Border Patrol agent warned Friday.
The agent, who spoke to various media outlets during a conference call, said at least 380,000 undocumented people had been apprehended at the Southwest border in February and the numbers would be higher for March and beyond.
The agent spoke on background with the agreement that media would not reveal his name.
“I fully expect to see the numbers increase as we go into the summer months,” the senior agent said, concerning migrant crossings.
In Cochise County that warning has begun to bear out near Douglas and in Willcox, where the already stretched-thin Border Patrol is arresting more single adults attempting to slip into the country or taking in and processing children who are flocking to the border unaccompanied.
Douglas Mayor Donald Huish said Friday the latest information he received this week from Border Patrol agents at the station just outside Douglas is that they’re confronting and repatriating about 100 single adults daily who are trying to slip in illegally.
“They are getting closer and closer to town,” Huish said.
What concerns Huish even more is that Border Patrol agents from the Douglas station are being pulled out to help in busier areas such as Yuma and Tucson.
“They’re siphoning them off to the western part of the state and leaving us with a skeleton crew,” Huish said.
In Willcox, Mayor Mike Laws said he was told two weeks ago by the Border Patrol there were 54 unaccompanied children at the Border Patrol station.
“That was two weeks go. Who knows now?” Laws said. “The station can only hold up to 81.”
Laws said he was told by Border Patrol that a “third party” has been arriving at the facility and taking 10 to 20 children to Phoenix by via bus. The mayor said he does not know how often the transportation comes or who the third party is.
“We have not seen anyone (undocumented migrants) running the streets so far,” Laws said. “All we have is the youths, but we don’t see them either.”
Laws and Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller said citizens in their respective communities would gladly help the undocumented migrants but there aren’t enough resources available to do so. Laws, Mueller and other mayors in Cochise County signed a letter recently asking the federal government for help with the matter.
Last week, the town of Gila Bend, which has a population of about 2,000, declared an emergency after Border Patrol agents dropped off a group of migrant families with children in a park.
Gila Bend Mayor Chris Riggs told reporters he and his wife ended up using loaned vans to drive the families to the Phoenix Welcome Center so they would have a safe place to stay. Riggs said Border Patrol agents told him to expect more of the same.
Mueller said there have been no such issues in Sierra Vista, but he is worried that the municipality, if hit with something similar to what happened in Gila Bend, would have no resources to offer.
Last week Arizona senators Kyrsten Synema and Mark Kelly announced they’ve been pushing for more federal resources to help Arizona cities with a sudden influx of undocumented migrants. The senators helped secure at least $110 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as reimbursement to cities that assist migrants left within their jurisdictions.
Also last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Florida Senator Rick Scott — who sits on the Homeland Security Committee — called on President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to visit the Southwest border. Ducey and Scott, accompanied by a handful of law enforcement and other elected officials, had toured a portion of the border near Douglas.
At his first press conference on Thursday since taking office in January, Biden said he would come to the border soon, but thought a visit now would deflect attention from the issue at hand.
The senior Border Patrol agent who spoke Friday, meanwhile, said 300 Border Patrol agents who work along the northern border of the U.S. have been “mandated” to the Southwest border to assist with the influx of migrants.
He said about 2,000 family units out of the 6,000 who are trying to cross daily are being processed in Texas by the Border Patrol. The agent revealed that unaccompanied children are being kept in Border Patrol facilities longer than the 72 hours established by law because too many are showing up and agents are overwhelmed.
“They’re keeping them a few days, sometimes up to a week,” the senior agent said.
Once an unaccompanied child is encountered, Border Patrol contacts the Department of Health and Human Services. The latter makes arrangements for the migrant children to be taken by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The agent also mentioned an increase in the criminal element among undocumented migrants.
“The threats we see are significant,” the senior agent said. “We have seen criminal (undocumented migrants).”
Additionally, he said that COVID testing for migrants is only being done in facilities in Del Rio, Texas, and soon in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Other than that, testing is being undertaken by non-governmental agencies that are helping the migrants and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials.
He said it was probable that some migrants with COVID-19 may have been released into communities.