Migrants crossing from Mexico into the United States are using a bar on the border in Texas to wash and change before heading inland, the bar owner has said, as Democrats in the state begin to criticize Joe Biden for failing to anticipate the situation.
The U.S.-Mexico border is seeing a surge in arrivals, with migrants turning up in numbers not seen since May 2019.
Roberta Jacobsen, a former ambassador to Mexico who is serving as a special adviser to Biden, admitted on Wednesday that it was no coincidence that the surge came as Biden took power, promising a ‘more humane’ policy.
Border Patrol agents found 96,974 migrants last month, up from 75,312 in January. Another 3,467 were taken into custody at ports of entry.
Migrants who crossed the Rio Grande await transport into the U.S. on Friday in Penitas, Texas
Doris, 6, an asylum-seeking unaccompanied minor from Honduras, awaits transport on Friday
Migrants from Central America are in Mexico after being deported from the U.S. on Thursday
Almost half – 43 per cent – were from Mexico, with 20 per cent from Honduras, 19 per cent from Guatemala, 6 per cent from El Salvador, and 12 per cent from other countries.
Two thirds, 68,732, of those encountered were single adults – the most single adults for any month since October 2011, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), which advocates for human rights and social justice along the border.
Nearly all single adults were expelled, WOLA said, but the 9,297 unaccompanied children who arrived in February were taken to shelters, which are rapidly-becoming overwhelmed.
The majority of the children were from Guatemala, followed by Honduras and Mexico.
So far in March, U.S. agents are detaining more than 4,200 people per day, which if sustained would rival the 132,856 apprehensions recorded in May 2019 – which was the most in 13 years.
Roberta Jacobsen, a special advisor on migration, addressed the issue on Wednesday
Lupe Cabrera, whose family has run Cabrera’s Bar in the small Rio Grande city of Granjeno for 60 years, said that he frequently found migrants in the bathrooms of the bar.
‘When I go in the mornings, sometimes I go to do some work, there’s people in the bathroom; they hide in the bathrooms,’ Cabrera told National Review.
‘Me and my brother own a trucking company, too. They’ll hide in the trucks.’
Cabrera said he’s seen a significant uptick in migrants over the last several weeks.
Many people have used the bar as a meeting spot, where new arrivals can be picked up and driven away.
‘They use it as a “Where are you? I’m at the bar here,”‘ Cabrera said.
‘When I was younger, you’d always see people crossing over, but it was always men. They were coming to work.’
Now, instead of Mexican workers, he is seeing more Central American families.
He said he offered some migrants a shower, and recently offered a teenage boy with a baby a place to sleep on the bar’s stage.
He has even had young women give birth at the bar, including one who recently had a baby ‘right by the trash bin’.
Lupe Cabrera’s family have run the bar for over 60 years
Lupe Cabrera is pictured at his bar in the Texas city of Granjeno, right on the Rio Grande
Cabrera’s bar has often served as a meeting point for migrants looking to move on into the U.S.
Cabrera said that during Donald Trump’s presidency, the number of illegal border crossings in the area dropped significantly.
‘Most of the people I see are harmless,’ Cabrera said of the migrants.
‘But you never know what the hell’s going on, who’s crossing, or what.’
Border agents say the number of migrants observed on surveillance cameras who successfully evade capture, known as ‘got-aways,’ has soared.
Officials told The Washington Post that they counted 1,000 ‘got-aways’ on a single day in February, and the National Border Patrol Council estimate 39,000 have slipped through the net so far this year.
A new report by The Cato Institute, published on Wednesday, found that the number of ‘got-aways’ rose throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, despite his pledge to increase border surveillance.
In fiscal year 2016, Border Patrol agents witnessed about 100,000 successful entries.
By 2018, the number had risen to nearly 128,000, and by 2020 hit almost 156,000.
Migrants are pictured waiting for a lift on Friday morning along the Rio Grande
Democrats representing border regions are beginning to ask why the Biden administration was not better prepared.
Vicente Gonzalez, a congressman representing Texas whose district includes the McAllen-Reynosa border, warned that the situation was going to get worse.
‘My concern in the recent weeks, in my district, is migrants who made it across the border,’ he told CNN.
‘They made it across the Rio Grande Valley, were processed and released.
‘I can assure you, it won’t be long before we have tens of thousands of people showing up to our border, and it’ll be catastrophic for our country, for my region, for my district.
‘In the middle of a pandemic, in an area where we’ve lost over 3,000 people in my small congressional district, I think we need to have a better plan in place.’
Representative Vicente Gonzalez warned that there would soon be tens of thousands of arrivals
Representative Henry Cuellar said the problem began under Trump, and has worsened
Henry Cuellar, another Texan in the House, and whose district covers a large swathe of the border from McAllen towards Piedras Negras, said in early March that the problem began under Trump, and has worsened with Biden.
He also accused the Biden administration of hiding the real number of unaccompanied children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
‘Yeah, look, we can play with words, is it a challenge or is it a crisis,’ Cuellar said on Fox News.
‘Let’s look at the numbers. Since August of last year the numbers have been increasing. And especially October, November and December we were hitting 70,000. In January we had 78,000.
‘And this is, again, under the Trump administration, now moving into the Biden administration.’
‘I don’t care what we call it, but I can tell you this — those numbers of people being released, they’re purposefully withholding that information. They’ve been told not to withhold that information.
‘I now know that they’re bringing people from McAllen over to Laredo, processing them in Laredo, and they’re going to release them in my community.’
And state senator Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa, another Democrat, who lives on the border, told The Hill that he does not think the Biden administration was prepared for the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border.
‘It’s gotten worse,’ Hinojosa said.
‘I don’t think, quite frankly, the Biden administration was aware of what’s happening on the ground here, which you can understand because they’re just coming in and trying to get people up to speed with what’s happening, but I don’t think they were aware there were that many coming across.
‘The Border Patrol is overwhelmed, they’re throwing their hands up because they don’t know what to do.’