U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are sending roughly 600 officers to ports of entry in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said Friday.
During a call with the media, the congressman gave updates on the issues affecting the border, including operational changes at ports of entry, what Cuellar characterized as a “surge” in apprehensions at the border, to name a few.
Cuellar said that beginning this week, non-essential travelers should expect delays at ports of entry.
Cuellar said CBP is adjusting operations at select ports of entry to help with the reduction of “movement” of non-essential travelers. When asked specifically when these changes would go into effect, Cuellar said the changes should be in effect beginning Friday.
Most notably, the congressman said non-essential travelers, both U.S. Citizens and legal permanent residents, should likely expect delays at the border beginning this week.
In an effort to help with this change in operations, the congressman said that 600 CBP officers; a majority of them from airports around the country, will be sent to multiple ports of entry in Laredo and Rio Grande Valley.
In late March, in an effort to protect its personnel amid the growing concern over COVID-19, local CBP representatives said agents would change how they operated with regard to the apprehension of migrants out in the field.
Agents who encounter people attempting to enter the country without authorization between ports of entry will process them at a mobile processing unit out in the field, and immediately expel them from the country through the nearest port of entry.
Weeks ago, Acting CBP commissioner Mark A. Morgan praised Title 42 expulsions as a “game-changer,” for the health and safety of its personnel. Morgan also said 10 CBP personnel had died as a result of contracting the virus.
Cuellar said another reason for the deployment of 600 officers is available personnel.
He said that although the Title 42 expulsions have alleviated personnel issues because fewer migrants are being placed in CBP or Border Patrol detention centers; roughly 1,200 CBP officers are currently active positive for COVID-19 or quarantined due to COVID-19.
Cuellar said roughly $21 million in appropriations, which was approved earlier this month, will be used to house, and feed the additional personnel at local hotels at the aforementioned locations; and will be paying them through the end of the fiscal year 2020, which ends on Sept. 30, 2020.
He said roughly two-thirds, or roughly 400 of the 600 officers would be placed in the RGV, while the remaining third would be placed in Laredo. Cuellar said these officers have already been sent to their respective assignments.
Cuellar discussed his call with CBP officials Thursday, which detailed changing demographics of those who are being apprehended around ports of entry.
Cuellar said the demographics have changed from the last several years; which saw an uptick in family units and unaccompanied minor children being apprehended in large numbers; to now, with Title 42 expulsions making an impact on who is being immediately departed.
The congressman said now Mexican adult men are the ones who are predominately being apprehended at the border — a return to the trend of apprehensions in the 2000s.
The number of families and unaccompanied children has dwindled after seeing a surge in FY19, when Central American families began surrendering at and around ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Of the more than 38,000 encounters CBP made in July, nearly 90% or 33,398 were encounters of single male adults, the statistics show.