Border Patrol Rescues 5 in Texas Near Where Caravan Waits

February 9, 2019 Updated: February 9, 2019

EAGLE PASS, Texas—The U.S. Border Patrol says its agents rescued five Honduran migrants—including a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old—trying to illegally cross the river separating Mexico from Texas.

The rescue occurred at about 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8, in the Rio Grande, between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico. A caravan of about 1,600 migrants is waiting in Piedras Negras to try to seek asylum in the U.S.

The caravan was surrounded on Wednesday, Feb. 6 by Mexican authorities in an old factory, a short distance from Texas. The caravan is the first in recent months to head toward Texas instead of California.

immigrants line up to register
Central American immigrants line up to register with Mexican Immigration officials at a shelter in Piedras Negras, Mexico, on Feb. 5, 2019. (Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

Agency spokesman Rick Pauza says the group of five rescued Honduran migrants have no known link to the caravan.

Authorities say the adults were struggling against the river current to carry the children, and that one woman was “nearly swept away.”

Agents helped pull the migrants out of the water and transported them to safety by boat. They are now being processed in Eagle Pass.

Migrants Detained in Old Factory

A migrant caravan arrived on Feb. 4  in Piedras Negras, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas.

The state government organized 49 buses from the interior cities of Saltillo and Arteaga to ensure the migrants’ safety, said Jose Borrego, a spokesman for the Coahuila State government.

But Mexican police and soldiers are holding the caravan in the factory and not letting them stay anywhere else, in part to prevent a mass attempt by migrants to cross the Rio Grande. Only migrants who receive a humanitarian visitor visa from Mexico were to be allowed to leave the factory, Borrego said.

A Central American immigrant gets a haircut at a shelter in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Jerry Lara/The San Antonio Express-News via AP)

Coahuila has long been plagued by the now-fragmented Zetas cartel as well as by colder weather.

“We didn’t want to run the risks of them traveling in open trucks,” Borrego said.

People who want to enter the U.S. may wait weeks, if not months. In Eagle Pass, customs officials are processing roughly 12 to 15 applications a day, according to Piedras Negras officials. U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not respond to a request to confirm that number, but customs offices across the border regularly turn asylum seekers away due to a stated lack of space.

CBP officers were seen on one bridge this week conducting exercises with riot gear and shields. And the Defense Department said Wednesday that it would send 250 soldiers to Eagle Pass in a support capacity, including military police, medical personnel, and engineers to fortify local ports of entry.

Long lines were forming inside the factory of people applying for humanitarian visas, the San Antonio Express-News reported. Meanwhile, the factory’s rooms have been turned into sleeping areas with mats, divided by age and gender, the Express-News said.

There appears to be some frustration. The newspaper reported that migrants who tried to climb a 12-foot (3.7-meter) fence Monday night and escape were pushed back.

“Some people have asked to be returned, they want to return to Honduras, above all,” Borrego said.

On the Texas side, a long line of law enforcement vehicles guarded the U.S. side of the Rio Grande to catch anyone trying to cross illegally.

“You never know what’s coming in,” Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber said Tuesday. “Criminal activity always takes advantage of those situations.”

Eagle Pass has relatively little fencing compared with other sections of Texas or other border states.

Congressional Democrats have not acceded to Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a border wall. DHS in December released a list of where it would want to build new sections of wall if Congress provided $5 billion. The list included 159 miles (256 kilometers) in Texas, but none in the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector, where Eagle Pass is located.

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