The photo, which shows a mother and two children, whom authorities transported from the Rio Grande Valley sector to El Paso, comes after Biden Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the El Paso facility on Friday with a bipartisan group of senators.
“Currently, we are experiencing a high number of encounters in the West Texas/New Mexico region. These encounters include families and unaccompanied children,” CBP Chief Gloria Chavez of the El Paso Sector told Fox News in a statement on the current situation there. “The highest population for the El Paso Sector is unaccompanied children with a 96% increase compared to February” 2020, year-to-date.
A migrant family transported from the Rio Grande Valley to the El Paso, Texas, Sector Border Patrol Central Processing Center is given an initial health screening by a contractor who oversees the health and welfare of family units and unaccompanied minors there. (Photo: U.S. Border Patrol)
Border agents have encountered more than 3,300 undocumented, unaccompanied children in the El Paso region this fiscal year. There has been a 64% nationwide increase in the number of migrant children coming into the U.S., Fox 40 Sacramento reported.
There were 30,077 border apprehensions in February 2020. In February this year, CBP encountered 100,441 migrants at the southern border — a 28% increase compared to January 2021 — and carried out 72,113 expulsions. The number of encounters at the border has been increasing since April 2020, according to CBP.
One migrant who spoke to Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins on Friday said the flow of migrants coming to the border was “not going to stop, ever.”
CBP cannot expel children under U.S. law, so they are temporarily held at facilities like the one in Northeast El Paso, which has a capacity of 1,040 migrants. The El Paso facility and others at the southern border are stretching to their max, creating crowded conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic as the Biden administration works to find more space and resources for those coming to the border.
“The recent surge of unaccompanied children in addition to family units is beginning to impact our capacity,” Chavez said. “We are working closely with Health and Human Services [HHS]/Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) for the placement of children as CBP’s ability to move children out of its care is directly tied to available space at HHS ORR.”
A migrant family crosses the border into El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File)
She added that since March 8, “the El Paso Sector has been receiving for a varying number [of] family units daily from the South Texas region.”
“We are very fortunate to have such a diverse group of folks with different missions consciously aware of the COVID 19 pandemic, working closely together as a community, both in Mexico and U.S., to balance national security responsibilities, the health and well-being of our workforce and those in our custody, and keeping our communities safe,” Chavez said.
Meanwhile, Mayorkas did not take questions from the press during his visit to the El Paso facility Friday, where he received a briefing “on the processing, shelter, and transfer of unaccompanied children,” according to DHS.
He and the delegation of senators also visited the new Centralized Processing Center in El Paso, “where unaccompanied children and families are processed and sheltered before transfer to Health and Human Services,” DHS said.
While numbers have been increasing at the border for months — particularly of unaccompanied children (UACs) and family units — they have spiked since President Biden took office. The number of UACs in custody has tripled in recent weeks, while there were more than 100,000 migrant encounters in February.
Critics have blamed the dramatic liberalizing of immigration policy and rollback of Trump-era border protections for encouraging the flow and removing the tools that helped with migrant protocols or allowed them to be returned to their home countries.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas listens as President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order on immigration, in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
“I thought I would see a crisis, but this is really a human heartbreak,” he told Jenkins. “We have our brand-new facility to care for these children and they built it beyond capacity, thinking they would never reach it. Today, they just set the anniversary that they broke capacity — more than 1,040 children, and it’s only growing every day.”
The Biden administration has claimed it is moving to replace the “cruelty” of the prior administration under Donald Trump with a more “humane” system and warned that will take time. But it has refused to acknowledge that there is a “crisis,” preferring instead to describe it as a “challenge.”
The administration is reportedly considering transporting migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border to processing facilities in Canada in an effort to lessen the strain on southern migrant facilities, The Washington Post first reported.
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.