by Anna Giaritelli

AUSTIN, Texas — Migrants waiting to be taken into custody by Border Patrol agents in Del Rio, Texas, are leaving the United States to walk back across the international river to Mexico, where they are picking up food from restaurants before returning to the bridge to continue waiting.

“There are people going back and forth across the river, going into Acuna [in Mexico] to get food and water to come back. You see them walking down the roads with to-go containers from restaurants in Mexico, but they have like a burger and fries in this to-go container,” said Jon Anfinsen, the president of the Border Patrol union’s Del Rio chapter.

The situation in Del Rio has taken a turn for the worse over the past day as more than 12,000 noncitizens who waded across the Rio Grande River wait under a port of entry to surrender to Border Patrol agents, who are solely transporting and processing migrants, too overwhelmed to be on patrol in the field.

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Migrants wade across the shallow water on top of a long cement sort of bridge at the water’s surface. This platform is technically the Weir Dam, but in recent days it has been repurposed as the pathway into America for thousands fleeing their homes and hoping to seek asylum in the U.S. Roughly half have traveled from Haiti.

But with an unprecedented level of people crossing, the burden on the federal law enforcement officers who are responsible for guarding the border is also mounting to provide appropriate care for those arriving.

The situation indicates how short the Border Patrol has failed to respond adequately to the worsening crisis. Thousands are forced behind a fence into a small outdoor space under the bridge. Portable toilets have been brought in for thousands to use. It is unknown how long people will wait before being transported to local Border Patrol stations for processing.

Del Rio international bridge 1
At least 12,000 migrants are camped out under the U.S. side of an international bridge that connects Mexico to Del Rio, Texas

Many people carry large plastic jugs of water as they cross the river from Mexico. Others are carrying bags of food because there are no places to eat near the bridge, and law enforcement is attempting to keep everyone in a secured perimeter away from downtown Del Rio. However, the migrants are allowed to return to Mexico.

While the thousands could overwhelm state and federal police, Anfinsen said there has not been an attempt to storm out of the area.

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“They’re certainly not running away or trying to avoid it,” said Anfinsen, who is an agent in Del Rio in addition to his duties as local president of the National Border Patrol Council’s Del Rio region. “They believe that this is what they’re going to have to deal with in order to get picked up and processed and into the asylum process.”

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Despite the crisis unfolding under the port, which Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations manage, just a few OFO officers are beneath the bridge, helping to maintain the devolving situation.

“The part that’s aggravating for me is, this is literally under the feet of Customs. They’re right upstairs. And we’ve seen a handful of officers helping out,” Anfinsen said.

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