EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A soccer stadium in Juarez, Mexico, has become the new landmark for migrants intent on seeking asylum in the U.S. to cross the Rio Grande. This, as the barrier of barbed wire, soldiers, Humvees and shipping containers pushes the flow of unauthorized migration farther away from Downtown El Paso.
“I’ve been on the road for five months. It’s hard with the cold, the hunger, the jungle. I’m ready to cross to the other side, jump the wall, risk a fall but I need to work,” said Luis Carlos, a Venezuelan migrant who on Wednesday stood on the Mexican bank of the Rio Grande with Benito Juarez Stadium at his back. “If they send me back, I will kill myself.”
The Venezuelans and other migrants intent on seeking asylum in the U.S. had been crossing the border just west of the Paso del Norte International Bridge linking the downtown areas of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. The spot was easy to access with a concrete ramp on the Mexican side, rocks (turtles, as the migrants called them) laid in a row on ankle-deep water and a soft earthen incline to a gap in the border wall where U.S. Border Patrol agents processed those who came across.
That changed last week with the arrival of Texas Army National Guard troops and a barrier of concertina wire that expanded eastward by the day. With the empty shipping containers laid westward, the diminished flow of Downtown migrant traffic now is inching toward El Paso’s Chamizal area.
The soldiers, barbwire and shipping containers are part of Operation Lone Star and are here to stay, at least for now, the Texas Division of Emergency Management says.
“At the direction of Gov. (Greg) Abbott, almost a dozen containers have been initially placed, along with a mile of fencing in locations in El Paso as determined by the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard. They will remain as long as necessary to impede the flow of illegal immigrants into Texas communities,” the TDEM said in an email to Border Report.
The agency said the containers and fencing are part of Operation Lone Star and “the governor’s strategy to secure the border.”
Abbot has been an outspoken critic of President Biden’s immigration policies, whom he lays responsibility for the more than 4 million migrants who have come across the border since early 2021. The Texas governor has deployed the National Guard, DPS troopers and other land assets to immigration hotspots such as Del Rio and, now El Paso.
All of the state’s assets – the concertina wire, vehicles and manpower, and squares of chain-link fence anchored by sandbags – are temporary structures. Border Report reached out to various agencies regarding permits to place man-made structures in the vicinity of the Rio Grande.
“We have been in communication with the various law enforcement agencies with a presence at the border regarding permitting requirements for any infrastructure that may have been placed or is proposed for placement in USIBWC right-of-way,” said Sally Spener, U.S. secretary and foreign affairs officer for the International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. Section. “That communication is ongoing.”
Other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, did not immediately respond.
Pro-immigrant groups such as the Border Network for Human Rights have condemned state efforts to stop illegal migration from Mexico into Texas. In the El Paso case, they say, the governor used the City of El Paso’s December 17 disaster declaration over the migrant surge to “militarize” the border.
The declaration, followed by a 30-day extension from City Council, came as migrant shelters in El Paso were at capacity and hundreds of migrants released on parole were being dropped off by border agents on the street amid plummeting temperatures.
“The City of El Paso’s declaration of emergency was an attempt to access much-needed resources to help the arriving vulnerable migrants at the border,” BNHR leader Fernando Garcia said last week.
“Gov. Abbott is using this declaration to feed into the racist, xenophobic, and white supremacist rhetoric of ‘an invasion’ by militarizing our city further […] We are outraged to learn of the arrival of the Texas National Guard, who have staged military vehicles and razor wire at (the Rio Grande).”