An impromptu migrant camp under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, has swollen to more than 4,500 people, according to Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez, who said it’s become an untenable situation for all involved.
Shocking photos show the crush of people, some sleeping on the ground, with clothes strung around them on lines or concrete barriers.
The camp had been hovering in the hundreds of occupants for several weeks, but a new surge of a couple hundred people a day has sent the number skyrocketing.
“These people are basically turning themselves in to Border Patrol, and Border Patrol has no room for them at the Border Patrol station,” the sheriff told The Washington Times. “They’re technically not in custody. They come up, they’re given a ticket for placement, and they’re laying around waiting for a bus to pick them up.”
The camp sits underneath the International Bridge, a border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña in Mexico.
Sheriff Martinez said Haitians predominate, with Venezuelans and probably Cubans also in the camp. The population comprises single adult border crossers and families.
The migrants are taking advantage of the Biden administration’s approach to border enforcement. The Biden team scrapped one Trump-era policy allowing migrants to be pushed back across the border, and has made more limited use of another pandemic expulsion tool, known as Title 42.
Del Rio used to be a relatively calm part of the border but has seen massive increases this year in illegal activity and in border deaths.
The region doesn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate the people it’s getting — including doing COVID testing. Homeland Security, which elsewhere is relying on nongovernmental organizations for testing, had to issue a contract to have it done in Del Rio.
Sheriff Martinez said the migrant camp needs immediate attention.
“It is not safe, it is not healthy, for all involved, for the people that are down there underneath the bridge. It is a situation that in my opinion has gone south and it’s not going to get any better until somebody does something,” he said.
The situation is so bad that the migrants make their way back into Mexico to get food and water, then come back to the U.S. camp, the sheriff said.
Breitbart.com, which has been reporting on the bridge situation, said the migrants are not on any official Customs and Border Protection detainee rolls and have not been booked into the processing system.
CBP, in a statement, defended its use of the bridge as the best option for shade to prevent heat-related problems at what it called a “temporary staging site” for the migrants.
“Drinking water, towels, and portable toilets have been delivered for migrants to use while they await to be transported to a facility,” the agency said.
The agency said some of the migrants will still be expelled under the Title 42 authority.