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Migrants camp in tents along border wall as processing centers fill up

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – They call it “La Villita” (The Little Village) and it’s growing by the hour as more asylum-seekers stream toward the border wall in El Paso.

On late Friday morning, the migrants had set up dozens of makeshift tents on U.S. territory south of the wall’s Gate 40. More than 100 migrants could be seen standing by the gate, waiting for the Border Patrol to let them in and transport them to processing centers.

Some migrants interviewed by Border Report as they walked back to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande said agents told them El Paso processing centers were full. The agents reportedly told them to wait for space to become available.

“They said they don’t have any room and that they are releasing people so they can pick us up,” said Direy Mancilla, a Colombian asylum seeker who arrived in Juarez on Thursday with her husband and their 14-month-old daughter.

Hundreds of migrants have gathered along the border wall in El Paso’s Lower Valley as seen on May 5, 2023. (Ruben Espinoza/KTSM)

Honduran Victor Mejia said he was told the processing centers were “collapsed” due to the high number of migrants who crossed the border days prior to the termination of Title 42 public health migrant expulsions.

“We need food, we need water, we need medication and protection,” the asylum-seeker said after returning to Mexico. “We are sleeping on the dirt. Children are sick and their parents are becoming sick, too. Please help us here at Gate 40.”

The City of El Paso’s online migrant dashboard on Thursday reported that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had 4,338 migrants in custody. That’s close to all-time high numbers. The dashboard works with CBP-provided data.

In a statement to Border Report and KTSM, federal officials said they would not comment on statements migrants make to the news media. The Border Patrol is averaging 1,400 daily migrant encounters in the El Paso sector, which is far fewer than the 2,500 they were encountering in early October.

An agency spokesman told KTSM the processing centers were at capacity on Friday, but that numbers fluctuate throughout the day.

“The El Paso Sector is currently leading the nation with over 265,000 encounters this fiscal year 2023,” the agency said. “As the migrant influx continues, it is not uncommon for migrants to congregate in an area while awaiting transportation for processing. As the temperatures rise, migrants are also proactively creating temporary shelters to provide some type of relief from the sun and the elements.”

In addition to processing asylum-seekers, border agents are concentrating on apprehending migrants who try to evade capture by getting over the border wall and running into residential areas near the border. Those numbers are on the rise in El Paso, with migrants trying to flee into residential areas near the border.

CBP is using both Title 42 public health expulsions and Title 8 removals on migrants deemed not to have a legal basis to remain in the U.S. “We are however, focusing our efforts on applying consequences to those who enter the country illegally by processing migrants under our expedited removal immigration processing pathways under Title 8, including barring individuals for five years from the country, if found not to have a legal basis to remain in the U.S.,” the statement said.

The agency has two large working processing facilities (the Central Processing Center near Hondo Pass Drive and a new soft-sided facility near Chaparral, New Mexico). A third large-scale facility is being built in far Northeast El Paso near the soft-sided facility.

New migrants carrying backpacks, gym bags and plastic grocery bags with snacks and water arrived at the Rio Grande near Gate 40 literally every few minutes on Friday morning.

They crossed stagnant, foul-smelling foot-tall river water and walked toward the wall in a section of barbwire fence that has been cut off. Several families and groups of men were recorded as they set up makeshift tents to protect themselves against 80-degree heat.

Angela, a mother of five from Venezuela, rests with her family under a tree on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande while waiting for CBP to resume processing asylum seekers at Gate 40 in El Paso on Friday. (Julian Resendiz/Border Report)

Angela, a Venezuelan mother, expressed frustration at the slow pace of asylum processing. She left her homeland several months ago with her husband and five children, including one that wears a catheter due to a cystostomy and one with asthma. In addition, one of her little girls got sick in Juarez.

“She has a bad cold. She had fever,” the mom said. “We arrived here on Sunday night and cannot wait to be let across. […] As soon as they open the doors again, we want to cross.”

Angela said she would miss the family’s two dogs because she was told they could not come into the U.S.

Mejia, the Honduran, said the situation developing on Friday morning would no doubt escalate in the coming days. “You’re going to see thousands of people here in a few days,” he said.