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Migrants Squeeze Through Border Wall Gaps in Arizona as Officers Scramble to Process Hundreds of New Arrivals

With some official ports of entry into the United States closed or allowing only limited passage, migrants are finding ways to get past the border in Arizona, including by way of a new hole cut through the bars of the 30-foot high fence. Migrants were spotted squeezing between panels in the fence close to Lukeville, AZ, local news outlets reported. Some panels appeared to have been cut out, with just the bases visible in the images shared with Arizona’s 13 News.

Earlier this week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it was reducing vehicle processing at its entry point into the town. Director of Field Operations in Tucson, Guadalupe H. Ramirez, said on X that this was to allow officers to assist in the detention of illegal immigrants. However, with fewer officials available at ports of entry, desperate migrants may be seeking other routes into the U.S. – something seen elsewhere along the border in San Diego earlier this month and at Eagle Pass in Texas.

Tucson facing biggest migrant challenge

Customs and Border Patrol data for Octobershowed the Tucson sector, where Lukeville is located, saw 55,224 “encounters,” far higher than other sectors along the southwest border. The numbers mark a 140% change on the same period in 2022. The surge in migrants at the southwestern border is being “fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals and encourage migration,” the CBP said in a statement earlier this week.

Officers say their resources are not infinite, however, and while more people are needed, it can take up to two years to train additional personnel.

“When we get asked to do something more, maybe outside of our scope, it means taking people off the line to go support that,” Justin Winburn, the Watch Commander for the San Luis Port of Entry, told 13 News.

Chief Patrol Agent of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector John R. Modlin said that included drafting staff working social media accounts, meaning a reduced presence for the local CBP online.

“At this time, all available personnel are needed to address the unprecedented flow,” he posted to X. “The social media team will return once the situation permits.”

On Monday, hundreds of migrants were seen huddled along the border wall in Lukeville. While some were from Central America, many were also from far further south, or from Africa. Border patrol officers were seen trying to manage the crowd, prioritizing families with babies for processing at overflowing immigration centers.

In total, over 188,000 border encounters were recorded in the southwest in October. While that was a drop on the previous October, CBP said in its last update that it was seeking to combat misinformation from smugglers which was causing people to seek alternative entry routes.

A spokesperson for CBP told The Messenger that more resources were being brought in to deal with the issue, adding that the health and safety of all migrants was being prioritized but that unlawful crossings would not be tolerated.

“The U.S. is continuing to see ebbs and flows of migrants arriving fueled by seasonal trends and the efforts of smugglers to use disinformation to prey on vulnerable migrants and encourage migration,” the spokesperson said.

“DHS continues to enforce United States immigration laws, expanding lawful pathways while strengthening enforcement consequences for those who cross our border unlawfully.” 

Last week, 133 unlawful entrants were prosecuted, up from 91 the previous week, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona. Some of those will be deported, while others will await hearings at a later date.

“Individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the U.S. are subject to removal pursuant to CBP’s longstanding Title 8 authorities and are subject to a minimum five-year bar on reapplying for admission and potential criminal prosecution if they subsequently re-enter without authorization,” the spokesperson concluded.

The Messenger approached the National Border Patrol Council for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.

Source: The Messenger News