Large groups of migrants have rushed the southern border to get into the United States before the restart of the “Remain in Mexico” program, according to the Washington Examiner.
The surge began at two sections of the southern border shortly after the Biden administration had announced last Thursday that it will restart the Trump-era border program that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. immigration hearings.
President Joe Biden had ended the policy after his inauguration in January, Reuters reported. However, a federal judge ordered the restart since the administration did not follow proper procedures for ending the program.
The Examiner noted the Department of Homeland Security set Monday for the restart, and that two migrants have already been returned, U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday.
Those two re-entered Mexico at a border crossing in Ciudad Juarez opposite El Paso, Texas, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Mexico.
One of them, who identified himself as Enrique Manzanares from Nicaragua, said he felt a little sad, but gave thanks to God that he was still alive.
“In the end, nothing was lost,” Manzanares told Reuters. “Some of us make it, others don’t.”
A Mexican official confirmed the restart, saying it would be limited on Wednesday to just the two migrants.
The IOM said the two people were given COVID-19 tests once they entered Mexico, and that IOM representatives took them to a shelter in Ciudad Juarez that had been approved by U.S. and Mexican authorities.
The United Nations-backed organization also called for MPP to be ended as soon as possible, describing it in a statement as “inhumane and contrary to international law.”
A spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said the Department of Homeland Security began the court-mandated re-implementation of MPP at one location.
“For operational security reasons, DHS is not sharing details such as location of initial returns or number of individuals enrolled,” the CBP spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the groups of migrants, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, crossed the border near Eagle Pass, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, in hopes of getting in before the restart of the program, the Examiner said.
“Over 3,500 encountered since Friday!” said Jason Owens, the Del Rio Border Patrol chief in an Instagram post on Tuesday. “Undocumented migrants continue to enter illegally throughout our area of responsibility … and in large numbers! In one event, nearly 200 crossed together and were arrested in Eagle Pass this weekend. The numbers we have in custody continue to increase.”
And the Examiner noted four border agents confirmed that some migrants told agents they wanted to get into the U.S. before the restart of the program.
Sparked by the surge, agents in Del Rio say mandatory overtime has been imposed for agents. In addition, the Border Patrol has been forced to close its Eagle Pass South highway checkpoint so it could assign agents to aid those people in custody, two agents said, according to the Examiner.
One agent in Del Rio said the 242-mile section of the border was “unpatrolled” due to agents taking in migrants who surrender.
“We’re probably the worst we’ve ever been since the 15,000 Haitians showed up in Del Rio,” the second agent said.