Over 1,500 people crossed the U.S.–Mexico border illegally into El Paso, Texas in the early hours of Dec. 12, according to video from the scene and local media, in what reports say could be one of the biggest single crossings ever in the region.
Footage from the border shared on social media by news outlet El Paso Matters showed a massive group of migrants trekking through the water toward the other riverbank overnight.
Once on the other side of the river, the illegal aliens waited in a long line to be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.
Video showed people huddling by fires trying to keep warm as they awaited processing, while other footage—a pan across the line of people waiting in line—revealed just how massive the group was that crossed the border into the United States.
CBP said in a statement on Monday that the jump in encounters in the El Paso sector meant that Border Patrol agents from other sectors had been called in to assist with processing.
Sleeping on the Streets
The individuals who crossed Sunday night were part of a group migrants who were escorted by Mexican state police from the city of Jiménez to Juárez in a caravan of 20 buses, according to El Paso Matters, which estimated the total size of the group that crossed overnight at over 1,500 people.
The aliens said they were from Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Peru, according to the outlet, which estimated that this may have been the largest single border crossing in the region in history.
More than 5,600 illegal aliens were held as of Dec. 13 in the Border Patrol Central Processing Center, according to a city of El Paso dashboard. The center has a capacity of around 3,500.
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) said in a Twitter post that the processing center was filled beyond capacity and that some people were sleeping on city streets.
“Migrants sleeping on the streets of El Paso! This is what the New Ellis Island looks like: 611 migrants out on the streets because the NGOs are out of capacity; every Border Patrol agent in processing centers overcapacity with 5,000 folks. This is exactly what Democrats wanted.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has acknowledged that the situation along the southern border is “difficult,” while insisting that the Biden administration wants a “safe, legal, and orderly immigration system that is based on our bedrock priorities: to keep our borders secure, address the plight of children as the law requires, and enable families to be together.”
Mayorkas said recently that Republican rhetoric claiming that the “border is open” was helping fuel the influx.
“The political cry that the border is open is music to the smugglers’ ears, because they take that political rhetoric and they market it” to desperate migrants, Mayorkas told The Dallas Morning News.
BREAKING: A huge migrant caravan of over 1,000 people crossed illegally into El Paso, TX last night, making it the largest single group we have ever seen. The city of El Paso reports Border Patrol now has over 5,000 in custody & has released hundreds to city streets. @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/ewUQX757Lt
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) December 12, 2022
Still, when President Joe Biden took office, one of his first actions was to cancel the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.
That rule meant that asylum-seekers were required to remain in Mexico while their claims for asylum were processed, with figures showing that the policy discouraged false asylum claims and decreased the flow of illegal immigration.
Peter Jaquez, acting chief patrol agent of the El Paso sector, which covers 264 miles of border between the United States and Mexico, said that the sector experienced a “major surge” in unlawful border crossings in recent days.
“Over the weekend, the El Paso Sector experienced a major surge in illegal crossings, with a 3-day average of 2,460 daily encounters, primarily through the downtown area of El Paso,” Jaquez said in a post on Twitter.
“We will continue to keep the public informed as the situation evolves,” he added.
Breaking! Over the weekend, the El Paso Sector experienced a major surge in illegal crossings, with a 3-day average of 2,460 daily encounters, primarily through the downtown area of El Paso. We will continue to keep the public informed as the situation evolves. pic.twitter.com/V2pOO6Y31N
— Peter Jaquez (@USBPChiefEPT) December 12, 2022
CBP said in a Monday post on Facebook that, over the past 48 hours, there had been over 16,000 illegal alien encounters at the border.
That’s an average of 8,000 people per day caught trying to cross the border illegally.
Officials Brace for Surge of Illegal Aliens
U.S. officials are bracing for what could be an even bigger surge of illegal aliens crossing over the southern border as the Title 42 restriction that were enacted under former President Donald Trump are set to end on Dec. 21.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that 9,000 to 14,000 migrants could try to enter the country illegally each day when the policy ends.
Created as part of the Public Health Service Act under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Title 42 was designed to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases in the United States.
The policy was issued by the Trump administration in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Illegal aliens processed under the policy are not permitted to request asylum in the United States and are removed from the country.
On paper, Title 42 covers the Canada and Mexico borders and aliens of all nationalities. It has mostly been used along the southern border to remove illegal aliens from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador from the United States.
Almost 2.4 million illegal aliens were stopped by U.S. agents along the southern border in fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30.
Federal statistics indicate that more than 1 million of the encounters led to the immigrants being removed from the country under Title 42.
Once Title 42 is lifted, the number of illegal aliens that Border Patrol agents must process will “likely be double or greater,” according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report released in September.
It is not clear what the Biden administration plans to do when Title 42 is terminated on Dec. 21.
Jeff Louderback contributed to this report.