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Hundreds of migrants on Texas’ southern border breach wire barriers built under Operation Lone Star

Julián Aguilar
The Texas Newsroom

Hundreds of migrants waiting to turn themselves in to federal border agents in El Paso on Thursday breached the temporary fencing on the northern banks of the Rio Grande, briefly overwhelming Texas National Guard soldiers.

A Department of Homeland Security official said that once the fencing was breached, between 400 and 600 migrants passed through the opening. They were subsequently apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents and detained pending further processing.

Valeria Morales, a special operations supervisor with the U.S. Border Patrol, said the site of Thursday’s incident has been a popular staging point for migrants attempting to cross for several weeks.

“When they come — and they’re now being extorted, they’re being beaten up on the Mexican side — they have that kind of urgency to make an entry. And that’s what’s happening right now,” she said.

The fencing and other barriers the migrants pushed down were erected as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, the state-led effort that was enacted, in part, to prevent migrants from entering the U.S. Current law allows migrants to apply for asylum once they reach U.S. soil, regardless of where the enter.

The tense moment Thursday occurred at a time when the El Paso Sector of U.S. Border Patrol has seen about 1,000 migrant encounters per day.

Video captured by the New York Post shows a group of migrants tearing down a section of the temporary barriers as Texas National Guard soldiers tried to push them back. The video shows some of the migrants raising their hands to surrender to law enforcement after being stopped by the permanent border fence that has been in place near the Rio Grande for years.

Morales deferred questions about the breach to the Texas National Guard. The Texas Newsroom’s requests for comment to the Texas Military Department were not immediately returned.

Late Thursday, Gov. Abbott posted on social media that state officers would install more barriers in that portion of El Paso.

“About the surge of illegal immigrants in El Paso: The TX National Guard & Dept. of Public Safety quickly regained control & are redoubling the razor wire barriers,” he posted. “[The Department of Public Safety] is instructed to arrest every illegal immigrant involved for criminal trespass & destruction of property.”

In a statement Thursday afternoon, a Customs and Border Protection official said that, as of 3 p.m. Mountain time, all migrants in the group had been moved from the area.

“No one should believe the lies of smugglers; individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed,” the official said in a statement. “Additional personnel have been deployed to the scene, and the situation is under control. The U.S. Border Patrol continues to monitor the situation and has increased patrols in the area.”

Copyright 2024 KERA

Julián Aguilar | The Texas Newsroom