The incident occurred shortly after midnight Saturday when border agents saw two Mexican military vehicles cross the border line on the middle of an international bridge connecting El Paso and Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement to Reuters.
The soldiers said they did not realize they had entered the United States, and border agents secured their weapons and equipment for “safety and processing,” said the CBP, adding that Mexican military leadership was contacted.
Photos shared on social media appear to show soldiers handcuffed behind their back standing at the side of the road before they were escorted away by CBP officers for processing.
Thirteen of the 14 Mexican soldiers were processed without incident, but one soldier was issued a civil fine for possessing a personal-use amount of marijuana, according to Reuters.
All the soldiers, along with their equipment and vehicles, were returned to Mexico before 5 a.m. on Saturday morning.
The incident comes after Del Rio, a small Texas border town, was overwhelmed by an influx of mostly Haitian individuals who sought to illegally enter the United States. At least 14,000 illegal immigrants had taken shelter underneath the border bridge connecting Del Rio to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, before the U.S. government started to clear their makeshift camping site and fly some of them back to Haiti.
The Homeland Security Department has been transporting illegal immigrants from Del Rio to El Paso, Laredo, and other locations along the Texas border via buses, while others were put on flights to Tucson, Arizona, according to The Associated Press. The criteria for deciding who is flown to Haiti and who is released into the United States remains unclear.
Daniel Foote, the Biden administration’s special envoy to Haiti, on Wednesday resigned from his post, calling the deportation of illegal immigrants to their Haitian homeland disappointing and “inhumane.”
“I will not be associated with the United States inhumane, counterproductive decision to deport thousands of Haitian refugees and illegal immigrants to Haiti, a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs to daily life,” he wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Our policy approach to Haiti remains deeply flawed, and my policy recommendations have been ignored and dismissed, when not edited to project a narrative different from my own.”
The State Department responded in a statement, pushed back against Foote’s claim that his policy suggestions were overlooked.
“This is a challenging moment that requires leadership,” spokesman Ned Price said in the statement. “It is unfortunate that, instead of participating in a solutions-oriented policy process, Special Envoy Foote has both resigned and mischaracterized the circumstances of his resignation.”