Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that it has shut down the Del Rio port of entry in response to the enormous migrant surge that has overwhelmed officials in the area. Fox News has learned that border checkpoints in the area have also been closed.
While the port of entry deals with legal travel and trade, the border checkpoints are in place on northbound roads for security and to stop illegal immigrants, gang members and illicit cargo like narcotics and weapons from getting deeper into the U.S.
The agency announced in a statement that the Del Rio port of entry will be temporarily closed and traffic re-rerouted to Eagle Pass 57 miles away “to more effectively manage resources and ensure uninterrupted flow of trade and travel.”
“This temporary closure and shift is necessary in order for CBP to respond to urgent safety and security needs presented by an influx of migrants into Del Rio and is effective immediately,” the statement said. “It will advance and protect national interests and help ensure the safety of the traveling public, commercial traffic, and CBP employees and facilities.”
It comes as more than 11,000 migrants are being kept in squalid conditions underneath the International Bridge after a surge that has seen thousands of mostly Haitian migrants flood into the area in a matter of days, with sources on the ground telling Fox News that the situation is “out of control.”
On Wednesday, the numbers under the bridge were more than 4,000. By Thursday morning that number had spiked to approximately 8,200 and by Friday it was over 11,000, with hundreds more coming over constantly and reports of tens of thousands more on their way.
Brandon Judd, head of the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union representing Border Patrol agents, told Fox News that the border checkpoints in Del Rio have also been closed.
“Those checkpoints are there to interdict the people trying to evade apprehension,” he said, noting that Del Rio leads the nation in “gotaways” – illegal immigrants who have evaded capture by law enforcement at the border itself.
Judd told Fox that the CBP was told months ago that the Del Rio bridge was a weak point.
“They were warned that this bridge where these people are crossing, at this exact spot there was an uptick in traffic and the traffic continued to go up, and they were warned they needed to prepare, they needed to put operations in place to deal with a large influx of people, and they didn’t,” he said.
“Now we do not have that secondary protection, we don’t have that strategy and depth, and the agency made this decision because they failed to prepare for what was coming,” he said.
A source had told Fox on Thursday that Border Patrol was overwhelmed and that the situation is “out of control,” and on Friday federal sources told Fox that U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz flew into Del Rio and went to the bridge to try to get a handle on the situation.
Texas lawmakers expressed horror at the squalid scenes on Thursday, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, calling it a “manmade disaster.” Meanwhile, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy called on President Biden to deploy the National Guard.
Haiti has recently been hit by political turmoil and natural disasters, but critics have also blamed the Biden administration’s policies specifically for the new crisis — noting not only the rolling back of border protections like the Migrant Protection Protocols and the return of “catch-and-release,” but also the decision to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Haitians already in the country and also the reported cancelation of a number of deportation flights. DHS told Fox News on Thursday that flights were continuing and one had left on Wednesday, although the agency could not provide additional details for security and operational purposes.
Judd, speaking to Fox News, said that Border Patrol agents on the ground were exhausted, overworked and frustrated.
“They’re working six days a week, they’re working 10 or more hours a day, they’re completely overwhelmed, they are fatigued, they’re frustrated that the federal government hasn’t done its job, they’re frustrated that it appears that the federal government is actually inviting these people to cross our borders illegally,” he said.
“They know that as long as we continue to release people, as long as that magnet is there, that when people are released after they violate our laws, that’s a reward and that’s an invitation,” he said.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.