By Mitch Borden
Recently, U.S. Border Patrol inland highway checkpoints around El Paso have been shut down temporarily. These kinds of stops are set up all around the country within 100 miles of the United States borders and external boundaries. At these checkpoints, agents inspect vehicles and ask individuals questions to verify their citizenship.
Agents are being reassigned from their normal duties to help deal with the rising number of asylum seekers crossing the U.S. southern border, as first reported by Texas Monthly. According to U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas, the checkpoint closures extend into New Mexico.
These closures are a part of an effort for Custom and Border Protection, or CBP, personnel, including border patrol agents, to help deal with the rising number of asylum seekers coming into the country.
Cuellar said, “They’re [border patrol agents and CBP officers] being taken away from their traditional work that they do, either at checkpoints or cargo inspection, and they are being taken to address the asylum seekers.”
In the last month, CBP apprehended around 500 people a day illegally crossing into its El Paso Sector. In a press conference held earlier in March, U.S. Border Patrol’s Chief of Operations Brian Hastings outlined the current situation on the southern border.
In the past, the majority of those apprehended illegally crossing were , single, male, and Mexican. This fact made it easier for individuals to be returned quickly to Mexico according to Hastings. Now about 70 percent of those apprehended illegally crossing the border are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Families and unaccompanied minors make up the bulk of those taken into custody, and they require more processing and care. Asylum requests are also up.
Hastings stated 25 to 40 percent of his agencies manpower is going towards the care and transportation of those taken into custody instead of focusing on issues of national security. He said the current situation is unsustainable for the border patrol.
In an email, a CBP spokesperson stated, inland highway checkpoints are important in keeping the border secure and these closures are intended to be temporary.
Checkpoints in CBP’s Big Bend Sector are still open and operating.