EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Overcrowding at migrant processing facilities left a bad taste in El Paso’s mouth in 2019. Reports of migrants sitting or sleeping on concrete surrounded by razor wire under the Paso del Norte Bridge while enduring cold, dust and automobile fumes circled the world.
It was all due to then-existing U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities being overrun by sheer numbers. Border agents were apprehending 1,100 migrants a day in March and at one point had 3,500 in custody.
Fast-forward to May 2022 and a new migrant surge. Reports earlier this week had the population at the El Paso Central Processing Center – a facility built to house 1,700 – at 4,800.
Late Friday afternoon, CBP officials said the report was accurate at the time but declined to say how many are there now. They assured Border Report no parallels can be drawn now to 2019.
“We are treating migrants in the most humane, safe, clean environment possible within the Central Processing Center. We are doing everything possible to treat them with respect while we transfer them out of our custody,” said Carlos Rivera, a U.S. Border Patrol spokesman.
In a detailed email in response to Border Report inquiries, CBP said it had engaged in “decompression” efforts and working closely with community partners receiving migrants eligible to come out of custody.
“We are increasing CBP processing efficiency and moving deliberately to mitigate potential overcrowding at the Central Processing Center. Our federal, state and local partners in addition to local NGOs have greatly helped in our decompression efforts this week. We are grateful for their assistance,” the agency said.
Border Report also learned that six flights carrying approximately 135 individuals each left El Paso on Friday bound for Haiti. More than 800 Haitians were expelled under Title 42 authority.
No other information was immediately available on the flights, but former Border Patrol Tucson and El Paso Sector Chief Victor M. Manjarrez Jr. said similar deportation flights are taking off daily all along the Southwest border with various destinations. A February report by the Washington Office on Latin America estimated the Biden administration had repatriated at least 20,000 Haitians.
A large number of Haitian migrants have arrived in Juarez in recent weeks and some can be seen crossing the Rio Grande into El Paso.
CBP said it is also trying to take adults out of the CPC inside of three days and keep unaccompanied children for no more than 20 hours.
“We do our best to adhere to those timelines. However, our ability to out process those in our custody are dependent on the assistance we receive from other agencies to transfer migrants out of our custody,” CBP said.
Those other federal agencies include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Health and Human Services and Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Additionally, we count with civilian personnel such as DHS volunteer workforce and medical personnel on-site providing healthcare services to the migrants in our custody,” CBP said.
A total of 95 Border Patrol processing coordinators were assigned to the CPC on Friday. “Our federal, state and local partners in addition to local NGOs have greatly helped in our decompression efforts this week,” the agency said.
CBP told Border Report food, beds and supplies have not been an issue.
“The CPC has an expansion capability to process an additional 700 migrants in the overflow area,” the agency said. “We do have […] contracts at the CPC, including a catering contract that provides three meals and two snacks a day to every migrant in our custody, as well as special accommodations for meals based on faith, religious beliefs and veganism. “
The agency said clothing, toiletries and even baby formula – bought in bulk – were not an issue.
“Back in 2019, we didn’t even have the Central Processing Center,” one official said.