by Anna Giaritelli, Homeland Security Reporter

AUSTIN, Texas — Migrants in Mexico have rushed to get into the United States in recent days hoping to make it across the border and get released before the Biden administration begins returning asylum-seekers.

The surge began at two parts of the southern border shortly after the Biden administration announced on Dec. 2 that it had reached a deal with the Mexican government to restart a Trump-era border initiative mandating migrants who are seeking asylum be returned to Mexico while their claims head to U.S. immigration court. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Border Patrol, had set Monday as the date to restart the Migrant Protection Protocols program, otherwise known as “Remain in Mexico.”

Large groups, some in triple-digits, crossed the border near Eagle Pass, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, in hopes of “getting in” before Monday, when the Remain in Mexico Policy was supposed to commence, according to one Border Patrol agent stationed near Eagle Pass. A total of four Border Patrol agents from both regions corroborated that several migrants told agents they sought to get into the U.S. before the Washington policy was reimplemented. The Remain in Mexico Policy forced more than 60,000 asylum-seekers to live in encampments in northern Mexico cities for months.

Agents from the Border Patrol’s Del Rio, Texas, region said most of the recent crossings in their backyard took place in the 29,000-person town of Eagle Pass.

“Over 3,500 encountered since Friday!” Del Rio Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens wrote in a Tuesday Instagram post. “Undocumented migrants continue to enter illegally throughout our area of responsibility…and in large numbers! In one event, nearly 200 crossed together and were arrested in Eagle Pass this weekend. The numbers we have in custody continue to increase.”

Migrants have been able to get past Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and National Guard soldiers who set up a “steel curtain” of vehicles and boats between downtown Eagle Pass and the border. However, their presence has prompted migrants to cross on either side of downtown.

In Yuma, nearly 1,000 miles west of Eagle Pass, agents encountered more than 4,000 migrants who illegally entered from Mexico between Friday and Monday, according to the top regional official.

As a result of the sudden rise in illegal immigration, two agents in Del Rio said management imposed mandatory overtime due to the need for agents inside processing centers. Border Patrol temporarily closed its Eagle Pass South highway checkpoint and assigned agents to help with the increase of people in custody, two agents said.

Owens disclosed in a post to his personal Instagram page late last week that “while our agents are providing humanitarian relief to illegal border crossers, who immediately turn themselves in, they are not patrolling our borders. No one is.”

“It sounds terrible, but it’s amazing that someone in his position is coming out and saying that,” said an agent in Del Rio. “Morale is at an all-time low.”

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A second agent in Del Rio said Owens’s statement was true, that the 242-mile-long section of the border in the region was “unpatrolled” because agents were taking in migrants who surrender and then caring for, processing, feeding, and releasing them into the U.S. or returning them to Mexico.

“We’re probably the worst we’ve ever been since the 15,000 Haitians showed up in Del Rio,” the second agent said.

Under MPP, asylum-seekers will be sent back to Mexico through seven ports of entry on the southern border. The ports include San Diego and Calexico in California; Nogales, Arizona; and El Paso, Eagle Pass, Laredo, and Brownsville in Texas. Migrants who cross into Yuma would be transported to the closest MPP port and returned.

By don

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