MCALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrants desperate to enter the United States on the Southwest border have begun “bridge running” from the center of several bridges in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo, putting a strain on Customs and Border Protection officials who fear they might try to run in massive groups, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, (D-Texas), told Border Report on Wednesday.
“Asylum seekers are going to the middle of the bridge in taxis and cars and then getting out and making a run for it,” Cuellar said in a phone interview. “They’re getting in taxis and trying to sneak in. … Port runners are causing problems for our bridges because that means our CBP officers are having to run over to the middle of the bridge and that delays things.”
Cuellar, who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, told Border Report on Wednesday afternoon that at the port in Eagle Pass, Texas, “There are currently 300 refugees gathering up and they’re afraid they might make a run for it.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection confirmed to Border Report that it has seen mid-bridge drop offs on “multiple occasions” in the past few weeks.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has deployed officers and concertina wire to temporarily close the Hidalgo International Bridge in response to multiple large groups of undocumented aliens that had attempted to enter the port without inspection,” CBP wrote in a release, saying those measures “effectively eliminates the ability for a large group of migrants to illegally and forcefully surge through the Ports of Entry.”
Bridge runners have also made dashes in McAllen and Laredo, Cuellar said. CBP said it is monitoring the situation in Hidalgo and South Texas ports of entry, but no more specifics on which bridges or when were provided.
The congressman said he will host a roundtable discussion on Friday in McAllen and is expected to provide more details then. He added that he has been in contact with federal Border Patrol officials and is gathering more information.
Humanitarian respite relief funds
The Friday roundtable discussion — to be held at the Humanitarian Respite Center run by Catholic Charities of the RGV will include nonprofit groups. Cuellar said he will go over how organizations and municipalities can now directly apply for federal humanitarian relief funds for expenses they have incurred since the ongoing surge of migrants began in 2014 on the Southwest Border.
Congress has appropriated FEMA relief funds over the years, but funds were held up at the state level and not disbursed properly, Cuellar said. Now there is $30 million appropriated to help organizations and a board set up for disbursements and Cuellar said he will review how organizations can apply for these funds.
“It was so frustrating last time that we couldn’t get the (Texas) governor to give us money,” Cuellar said.
The City of McAllen has spent over $1 million to support humanitarian relief efforts since the surge began in 2014, and has only recuperated about $400,000 Cuellar said. Other organizations, like Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, have also been out hundreds of thousands of dollars.