Since October, U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. Marines have been assisting CBP and efforts have included more than 13,000 migrant apprehensions, and seizure of more than 3,000 pounds of marijuana.
U.S. Army Brigadier General Walter Duzzny visited the Southwest border in the El Paso and New Mexico area to tout the work military forces have done to help secure the border as the area deals with a large influx of migrants seeking asylum.
U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. Marines have been stationed in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Border Patrol to secure the Southern Border.
There are about 2,000 service members involved, including 1,200 at 150 sites serving as part of the Mobile Surveillance Capability mission, Duzzny said. There are 10 Mobile Surveillance Capability units in the El Paso Border Patrol sector, which covers West Texas and all of New Mexico.
“We are here at CBP’s request and make no mistake about it, CBP — Customs and Border Protection — is in the lead,” Duzzny said. “We are in support and really look at ourselves as a force multiplier for them. With the MSC (Mobile Surveillance Capability) mission, we are their eyes and ears from those MSC positions along the southwest border and allowing them to conduct their mission.”
The mission has soldiers and marines stationed in video surveillance units scanning the border for migrants and drug smugglers illegally crossing into the U.S. They then alert Border Patrol agents to any illegal activity.
The military forces are also helping with other needs that come up as Customs and Border Protection move resources to address the large influx of migrants at the border.
“As we partner with Customs and Border Patrol, we are working also with DHS and CBP to continuously assess and reassess the type of support we are providing,” Duzzny said. “We want to make sure that we got the right support, right units at the right place and the right time to provide the type of support that they’re requesting and meets CBP’s operational needs.”
Duzzny went on to say, “That is not an easy task. A lot of due diligence and enhanced due diligence has gone into making sure that we got the right units out here executing a certain type of mission.”
Some examples Duzzny gave were aiding in providing medical care, along with helping in engineering and aviation tasks.
“In the last nine months, DOD (Department of Defense) forces have supported CBP by participating in the hardening of 36 ports of entry, placing 670 miles of concertina wire to protect approximately 180 miles of border, providing aerial, engineer, medical and military police support,” Duzzny said. “We have a crisis response force currently that provides additional assistance to CBP on a 48-hour notice.”
‘A system-wide emergency’
The U.S. Department of Defense sent military personnel to the border in the wake of CBP seeing record-breaking numbers of migrants crossing into the U.S. to seek asylum.
According the latest figures, Customs and Border Protection saw a 99 percent increase of migrants detained this fiscal year, which started in October, compared to this same time period in the 2018 fiscal year.
“We are experiencing a system-wide emergency that is severely impacting our workforce, facilities and resources,” Acting CBP Commissioner John P. Sanders said in a statement.
In the 2019 fiscal year, Border Patrol agents have apprehended about 593,507 migrants on the Southwest border since the end of May.
According to CBP officials, “in the previous seven years, the highest fiscal year total of apprehensions was 479,371 in 2014 – which U.S. Border Patrol has already exceeded by 24 percent through May of this year.”
The month of May alone saw agents apprehend 132,887 migrants on the Southwest border.
The migrants detained included unaccompanied children, family units and individual adults — mostly coming from Central American countries including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Unaccompanied children and family units make up about 66 percent of all apprehensions this fiscal year on the Southwest border, officials said.
The migrants are crossing into the U.S. in large groups including more than 180 groups of more than 100 people this fiscal year, officials said. In the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years combined 15 groups of more than 100 migrants were apprehended.
The large number of migrants crossing into the U.S. has put a stain on CBP resources, officials said. CBP officials have continuously called the situation on the Southwest border a “humanitarian crisis.”
“CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest Border — and nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso,” former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said at a news conference in El Paso in March.
The reassignment of customs officers and Border Patrol agents has left border security vulnerable, officials said.
“The Department of Defense — this is not new — has a long history of support along the border dating back to the 1990s and we are very proud to be contributing to this very important and significant mission here today,” Duzzny said. “This border is big, but border security is also national security.”
The influx of migrants has also impacted trade and border crossing travel times, CBP officials said.
“The impacts of the crisis to legitimate trade and travel cannot be overstated,” customs officials said in a news release. “CBP has moved over 700 CBP Officers from ports of entry to assist USBP (U.S. Border Patrol) with processing the surge of migrants being apprehended.”
They continued, “The reassignment of officers from the ports of entry to the USBP facilities comes with consequences. Pedestrian, passenger vehicle, and commercial trucks trying to cross the border are experiencing uncharacteristically long delays. Some ports of entry have been forced to close some travel lanes and curtail some weekend cargo processing hours.”
© 2019 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.