(EL PASO, Texas) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities in most regions along the southern border are over capacity even as the number of those in custody has declined, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, there were 26,354 people in CBP custody, which Ortiz said was, “several thousand less” compared to earlier in the morning.
Five of the nine Border Patrol sectors in the southwest are over 125% capacity.
“But that means that there are four sectors that aren’t,” Ortiz said, adding that Border Patrol has been flying migrants from high-traffic areas to facilities with more capacity.
From the Mexico side of the border in Ciudad Juarez, the number migrants crossing into the El Paso area has declined since the weekend.
“The officials in Texas and other places in the US are exaggerating what is happening here for political reasons. There is no crisis here at the moment,” a city government spokesperson said. “We’ve had many other immigration waves that were far more impactful, when all of our shelter space was full and people were on the streets.”
Overall, Ortiz said authorities are tracking around 65K migrants in northern areas of Mexico and that the surge CBP has been expecting may soon subside.
“The increase that we have seen in the last 5 to 7 days was really the surge … I think that what we see now is a continued effort by some to message incorrectly that once Title 42 goes away, it’s going to be a free for all along the border,” Ortiz said. “I don’t see that being the case. Our agents will be out there performing their duties.”
Title 42, the pandemic-era policy which allowed the U.S. to expel upward of two million migrants from the border, expires Thursday.
Currently, 4,000 beds remain open in Ciudad Juarez shelters — well below 50% capacity. That number has been dropping for two weeks and continues to fall.
Ortiz said he believes the administration has shifted to a strategy that prioritizes enforcement and shows migrants the consequences of crossing illegally.
Asked whether heavy-handed measures were necessary for migrants sleeping in the streets of El Paso, Ortiz stood by his approach.
“It wasn’t about chasing people around down the streets, into churches, into a protected areas,” Ortiz said. “It was a very methodical approach. And I was very proud of everyone.”
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