The illegal immigrants are spread out over a dirt lot strewn with litter, many sitting or lying on blankets. Others stand, chatting with companions.
Some 9,000 illegal immigrants, including Haitian, Cuban, and Venezuelan nationals, are in the area, Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez confirmed at 3:45 p.m. local time on Sept. 16.
Five hundred more had arrived within the previous half-hour as the sheriff and the mayor of Del Rio, Texas, held a press conference near the bridge–almost within sight of the Rio Grande, which serves as the international border with Mexico.
The number has skyrocketed in less a week, from only a couple of hundred under the bridge on Sept. 9.
Mayor Bruno Lozano confirmed that another 20,000 are on their way.
“I’m deeply frustrated. The thing that I worry about is a stampede. The thing I worry about is terrorism,” Lozano said.
“This is not secure. This is not defensible,” he said, looking toward the wide open border and the number of people walking back and forth across it.
“We don’t really know who they are.”
BORDER NOW: Heard from sources last night that there’s 6,000 illegal immigrants under this international bridge in Del Rio now.
Chatter about another 20k on the way, unconfirmed. Mostly Haitians, some Cubans, Venezuelans.
Most transported to BP station, processed, released. pic.twitter.com/mK3e1d07Ov
— Charlotte Cuthbertson (@charlottecuthbo) September 16, 2021
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said that he has directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to “maintain their presence at and around ports of entry to deter crossings,” although it’s unclear how effective that will be in reducing numbers.
“The Biden Administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,” Abbott said in a statement Sept. 16.
Lozano said his city’s medical services are stretched thin. An illegal immigrant woman was rushed to hospital on Sept. 15 to give birth. On Sept. 16, The Epoch Times witnessed Border Patrol loading a woman into an ambulance.
Lozano blamed the Biden administration, particularly Vice President Kamala Harris, for not focusing on the U.S.–Mexico border, especially the smaller cities being affected, such as Del Rio. The number of illegal aliens currently under the bridge is almost one-third of the population of the city.
“We’re ignored. They’re prioritizing urban centers,” he said.
Sheriff Martinez confirmed that the illegal immigrants aren’t being tested for COVID-19.
“None of them are being tested for anything,” he said.
Law enforcement is adding more portable toilets under the bridge every day and drinking water stations are provided.
The illegal immigrants cross the river frequently to go back to Mexico for food and supplies.
Lozano said the system is so overwhelmed that it will likely take Border Patrol two weeks to transport the current 9,000 illegal aliens to Border Patrol facilities and process them. Those who are released often get dropped at the local Stripes gas station in Del Rio, where they wait for a bus to San Antonio.
It isn’t clear why the bulk of the Haitians cross into Del Rio, though migration patterns show that people from certain countries have favored routes into the United States.
CBP didn’t answer the phone or return voicemails or an email on Sept. 16 as the number of illegal immigrants continued to swell. No CBP representative spoke at the press conference.
“It’s completely predictable because Biden is basically inviting in illegal immigrants,” Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank that advocates for a pro-immigrant, low-immigration system, told The Epoch Times.
“This just seems to be an extreme example of what we’ve been seeing since Jan. 20, which is illegal immigrants, taking Biden up on his offer that if they manage to get into the United States, they’ll be let go.”
President Joe Biden, upon entering office, quickly overhauled the U.S. immigration system, ending construction on the border wall as well as a program that forced many asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico.
Biden administration officials also stopped using the federal government’s Title 42 authority, which was established during the COVID-19 pandemic, to expel unaccompanied minors, or illegal immigrant children.
The use of Title 42 has dropped in recent months as Democrats pressure Biden to end the authority. Officials applied it to just 44 percent of the illegal immigrant encounters in August.
The decline in federal immigration enforcement has prompted Texas authorities to fill the void. State and local law enforcement have ramped up enforcement of illegal immigrants, including in Del Rio, where the mayor has pleaded with Biden to stop releasing illegal immigrants as local conditions deteriorate.
Crossing the border into the United States without proper papers is illegal, but after entering, an illegal immigrant can claim asylum, or fear of persecution if they are returned to their home country. If they do, they are often released into the United States. If they don’t, they are processed under Title 8, or federal law, typically getting a court date or told to appear at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office on a certain day. Most don’t end up appearing.
The CBP spokesperson told The Epoch Times that “the vast majority of single adults and many families will continue to be expelled under the CDC’s Title 42 authority, and those who cannot be expelled under Title 42 and do not have a legal basis to remain will be processed under Title 8 authorities.”
There are indications that a number of single adults are being allowed to remain in the country, particularly foreign nationals whose nations have been granted a special type of protection called Temporary Protected Status by U.S. authorities.
One Haitian man, a single male who crossed with some 350 other illegal immigrants to Del Rio from Mexico in July, spoke to The Epoch Times after entering the United States. About a month later, he texted to say he’d made it to Boston and was fine.
A Cuban man in his late-20s, Eduardo, told The Epoch Times this week at a gas station in Del Rio that he was waiting to be picked up by his parents, who live in Houston. He said he traveled from Panama through Central America before making it through Mexico to reach Del Rio, walking most of the time.
“There’s no freedom in Cuba,” said Eduardo, who had been dropped at the gas station by Border Patrol.
The United States recorded more than 208,000 illegal immigrant arrests at the border in August, one of the highest months on record. Under the Biden administration, the country is on pace to set records for the highest number of fiscal year and calendar year encounters.
The administration would have known about the large groups of immigrants that are now in Del Rio, Jaeson Jones, CEO of Omni Intelligence, told The Epoch Times.
U.S. intelligence programs monitor Central America to detect large groups forming, said Jones, a former Texas Department of Public Safety intelligence and counterterrorism captain, who worked closely with Border Patrol.
“No one in the federal government has acknowledged what was coming, stated that this was happening, nor did they do anything to mitigate it, because this should have been stopped. This is a large caravan of people that wasn’t stopped,” he said.
“To me, this just is more validation of the level of failure of leadership within the current administration.”