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The Border Glut Is 'Staggering'

One analyst describes a 'system-wide collapse'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2019 1:20 PM CDT
Central American migrants wait for food in El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, March 27, 2019, in a pen erected by US Customs and Border Protection to process a surge of migrant families and unaccompanied minors.   (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

(Newser) – An unprecedented migrant wave is snarling the immigrant system and peppering the Texas-Mexico border with sad sights—like dozens of families jammed under a bridge in El Paso, the El Paso Times reports. "It's staggering," says McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez. "Really, we’ve never seen anything like this before." With Border Patrol saying it's on pace to nab 100,000 migrants in March, the most in over 10 years, local numbers are also soaring: El Paso released over 850 migrants Wednesday to local shelters, a new high that's expected to rise, and a McAllen border facility built for up to 1,500 people was holding 2,200, per the New York Times. "Were the conditions horrible?" asked Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. He wouldn't say so, but "it was gut-wrenching to see mothers and children sitting there in cages."

An annual spring surge is no surprise—it's timed to beat dangerous summer heat—but these numbers are on par with 2014, when Central American migrants poured in for the first time. Now smugglers are bringing bigger families over the Rio Grande with the apparent goal of overrunning facilities and getting migrants released before their court date. Indeed, Border Patrol is giving migrants to ICE, but their facilities are overrun, so they unload people into overcrowded shelters. "This is a system-wide collapse," says a bipartisan think-tank analyst. Now federal officials are identifying areas for replacement barriers—like Yuma, Tucson, and El Paso, per CNN—but McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says migrants will just rely more on the Rio Grande Valley. Meanwhile, President Trump is threatening to close the border entirely. (Read more US-Mexico border stories.)

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