McALLEN, Texas – It was a frigid night along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas when a group of about two dozen migrants, including unaccompanied children, were met by border officials after making the dangerous trek to claim asylum near midnight Friday evening.
“We have 22 people. One of them is a single adult male. The rest of them are either family units or unaccompanied children,” Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, told a small group of reporters standing just feet away.
“I believe there’s four unaccompanied children ranging in age from 7-11. There’s also a family unit. One of them has a little boy that’s approximately 16 months old.”
Cabrera said they were from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador. After turning themselves in to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents, they then boarded buses on the U.S. side, where their asylum claims will be further processed.
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A bus waits for migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border as they are being processed by U.S. border officials (Elizabeth Elkind)
But it’s not just asylum seekers agents encounter there, Cabrera explained.
“You have runners in the same area … and then you’ll see a lot of drugs coming through here. And, at times, you’ll have money or guns going south through here. You’ll have people trying to smuggle it into Mexico.”
Migrant encounters at the border have fallen off this month, the union spokesman said, but not before agents were overwhelmed by more than 300,000 people encountered in December, a record high.
“I remember there were times when you’d have one, two agents and 400 people,” he said.
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He spoke to reporters near a port of entry in McAllen, Texas, about 100 yards away from where the Rio Grande acts as a border between the U.S. and Mexico. Ladders were strewn across an open field that had been used by migrants to scale the 15-foot drop beyond the wall.
Cabrera said the ladders were used to try to bring people in illegally, mostly by human smugglers, in a “coordinated effort.”
“At any given time, you’ll have 40, 50 people giving themselves up at this point,” he said. “And while our agents are doing paperwork on them … you’ll have three different groups within half a mile of here, throwing ladders up on the wall … knowing we can’t handle all the people we’re writing up and who’re climbing the wall at the same time.”
A homemade ladder left in a field near the U.S-Mexico border (Elizabeth Elkind/Fox News)
The CBP veteran, who has more than two decades’ experience in the field, said the environment he is working in has “changed dramatically” in recent years.
“It used to be we would have a downtime. We had a busy season. … People were coming in to work the fields, to pick crops and stuff like that. And then everybody would go home in November, December and start their journey back north again at the beginning of the year,” Cabrera said.
“This past year, we had record number of apprehensions in December. They’re not coming to pick crops in December.”
Cabrera noticed a change in the people arriving.
“Not everybody’s coming to work,” he said. “They’re coming in for, you know, for asylum, or the illusion of asylum.
“Living in the bad neighborhood is not what asylum is. Not finding a job is not asylum. Fleeing from religious persecution, that’s asylum. But, for some reason, this administration decided that asylum is whatever they want it to be,” he said.
The record surge of undocumented migrants since 2021 has strained local infrastructure in Texas and other areas along the border. It’s also caused problems for large Democrat-run cities where migrants have been sent, like New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
More ladders near a dumpster by the port of entry (Elizabeth Elkind/Fox News)
The next day, Cabrera pointed out that the flow of illegal drugs was hitting areas further north as well.
“We don’t have a heroin problem in the Rio Grande Valley. We don’t have a meth problem in the Rio Grande Valley. It comes through here, but it doesn’t stay here,” he said. “We don’t have MS-13. … They’re in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. They come through here, but they don’t stay here. They’re going to your areas.”
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It comes as Democrats and Republicans in Washington negotiate policy changes to help control the border crisis, with the GOP pushing for stricter measures than the left has so far accepted.
Cabrera was concerned the message to D.C. was “falling on deaf ears” and pleaded with federal officials to put party affiliation aside.
“They need to put this aside as a partisan issue. It’s not. It needs to be something that gets fixed for the good of this country,” he said.