scorecardWe spent a day with US Border Patrol in El Paso, where the agency is overwhelmed by the volume of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border
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We spent a day with US Border Patrol in El Paso, where the agency is overwhelmed by the volume of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border

We spent a day with US Border Patrol in El Paso, where the agency is overwhelmed by the volume of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border
PoliticsPolitics5 min read
  • United States Border Patrol agents and facilities have been overwhelmed by a surge in Central American migrant families arriving in the US and requesting asylum.
  • We spent a day at the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.
  • US Border Patrol Agent Tessa Reyes escorted us to multiple areas where migrants cross the border to begin the process of requesting asylum.
  • Per the Border Patrol, Business Insider was not allowed to film inside the processing center where immigrants are temporarily detained.
  • During a visit to the Border Patrol's training academy in Artesia, New Mexico, we sat down with Acting Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection John Sanders, who called the situation at the border "unprecedented."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.

John Sanders: I would say there's three crises occurring right now. There's an operational crisis, there's a humanitarian crisis, and there's a policy crisis. If you look at the numbers from March, there was over 100,000 people that came across the borders. Roughly 53,000 of those individuals were family units, and 39,000 were children. So it's truly unprecedented, the numbers that we're seeing come across.

Tessa Reyes: So this is one of the boundaries, like this building is in Mexico.

Narrator: The United States Border Patrol has long been under scrutiny due to allegations of mistreatment toward migrants at the border. We spent a day at the US-Mexico border with the Border Patrol, and this is what we saw. On a hot Saturday afternoon in April, US Border Patrol Agent Tessa Reyes gave us a tour of the border in El Paso and the surrounding area where immigrants seeking asylum turn themselves in to Border Patrol Agents posted at the crossing sites.

Reyes: So right now, we're on the border, kind of in the tristate area. We've got New Mexico right here, we've got Texas right here, and then we have right behind us is Mexico. There's no fence out here. There's no barriers of any kind. And you guys will see. We've had a lot of crossings. This is a very, very busy area. This is one of the areas where we're, we're having a lot of trouble keeping up with the demand. This is Mexico. And we have the Municipal Police. Every now and then, they'll kinda help us out or whatever. But for the most part, we stay over here, and they stay over there.

Graham Flanagan: Who are these folks over here under the trees?

Reyes: These look like a group. Either they are waiting to cross, or they might be waiting for another part of their group. They might be waiting for more people to come. That's why we have this agent out here. He's kind of just waiting. We usually try to have one here at all times just because it is such a busy area and you never know what's going to happen. He's kind of just reactive to whatever's going on. He can call for transport if the group does come or when they come across. Kids are especially a vulnerable group, and we try our darnedest to process them and get them where they need to be. We're trying to keep everyone together, no separations, obviously kids are the priority and women as well. We're just trying to expedite the process a little more because we're, we're overrun.

How stretched is Border Patrol right now in terms of the volume you guys are seeing?

Reyes: The El Paso sector is probably stretched more than it's ever been in easily the last, I mean I've been here 10 years, and I've never seen this.

Sanders: Roughly 40% of the agents' times are spent on duties other than their law-enforcement mission, what they signed up to do. Processing, transporting people to the Border Patrol Stations or to the hospitals. Lots of compassion that is occurring along the border. Especially with the Border Patrol Agents, but that is not why they signed up to be Border Patrol Agents.

Narrator: Due to the volume of crossings, the Department of Homeland Security shut down all six Federal Inspection Stations in the El Paso Sector. Normally all vehicles would be required to pull into checkpoints like this one.

Reyes: I always thought that the checkpoints were kind of untouchable, and the fact that we can't afford to man these is just really just insane. It's really just overwhelmed us. There's far less agents that are on the line that are doing actual enforcement. Actually, we can go through here. Oh, here we got some guys.

You had a group of 23, and then they took 'em, and this is what's left?

Border Patrol Agent: Yeah.

Reyes: OK, 10-4. All right then, man, we just want to check to see if you're OK.

Border Patrol Agent: Yeah, I'm good. Just waiting for transport.

Reyes: OK. As you can see, there's mostly children. We have an infant. That's another layer of the care that we have to go through. Diapers, formula, all that kind of stuff. They're each gonna get medically screened and hopefully go through the process as soon as possible. This is one of the areas that they turn themselves in a lot to. Yo! What's going on? He's directing them to keep going that way 'cause we have another agent I guess over there.

Flanagan: What'd they say?

Reyes: These guys are from Honduras, or Guatemala, and then they're from El Salvador.

Flanagan: What's going to happen to these folks?

Reyes: Now these, they're gonna be taken to processing, which is not very far. They enter through right here. It's the end of the fence. There's a break in the fence right here, and they can just walk up. And so there's always an agent here. Two of them have a bit of a cough, so everyone's going to need to be screened, and then we try as quickly as we can to process for asylum. And they get a bus out here, and they'll take 'em to, to one of our processing centers, more than likely PDT, which is right here. This is a good area for them to come because processing is right here.

Narrator: This is as close as we were able to get to the processing center. Border Patrol would not allow us to film inside.

Sanders: At the end of last year, we had two children that died in our custody. And so I would say the No. 1 thing that keeps me up at night is to ensure that another child does not die in our custody. I have seen more compassion from the US Border Patrol, the men and women of the Border Patrol, than I have seen in any other job that I have had the privilege of occupying. It's just the huge influx of people that are coming across. Very difficult for the Border Control to deal with.

Narrator: The day after this interview was taped, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died in a Texas hospital. After initially being detained by the Border Patrol, the boy was transferred to the custody of a government-contracted shelter before being sent to a hospital in Brownsville where he died due to what the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs described as a severe infection in the frontal lobe, becoming the third child since December 2018 to die after being detained.