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More migrants risk freight trains in dangerous attempts to cross El Paso border, CBP says

Border Patrol Agents (BPA) assigned to El Paso Sector, El Paso Station (EPT/EPS) apprehended a group of approximately 127 illegal aliens on March 7, 2019. (Jaime Rodriguez Sr./Customs and Border Protection)

Undocumented migrants are increasingly taking dangerous risks riding freight trains in attempts to cross the El Paso-Juárez border, officials said.

Migrants have been found on top of freight cars, hiding on trains, clinging onto the undercarriage and inside new vehicles being transported north, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday.

“We cannot stress how dangerous of a practice this is,” El Paso CBP Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha said in a statement.

Since the fiscal year began last fall, CBP officers have found 292 migrants on freight trains at the two international rail crossings on each side of the Paso del Norte Bridge in Downtown, officials said. By comparison, CBP caught 181 migrants on trains during the same period a year ago and 50 migrants in all of fiscal 2019.

“People are climbing on rail cars and hiding in places not designed to accommodate human beings,” Mancha said. “Fortunately, we have yet to encounter anyone who has been maimed while attempting this, but I am afraid that at some point we will.”

The train crossings are made more dangerous because they generally occur at night since trains cross between midnight and 6 a.m. so as to not impact traffic in downtown Juárez, a CBP news release states.

Photos released by CBP show what appear to be children found by border officers on the U.S.-bound trains.

The majority of migrants on the trains have been from Mexico and Central America, CBP said. After being taken into custody, they are generally processed and immediately returned to Mexico under Title 42, a public health law in use because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rise in train-crossing attempts comes amid an increase in unauthorized crossings along the border in the El Paso region.

The El Paso Border Patrol Sector reported 71,804 apprehensions or “encounters” in the first six months of fiscal 2021, October through March, compared with 26,594 at the same time a year ago.

Border Patrol is recording numerous multiple crossings by individuals since migrants quickly returned to Mexico under Title 42 might try various methods to attempt crossing the border.

The international railroad bridge known as the Puente Negro, or the Black Bridge, because of its color, next to the old Chihuahuita neighborhood, historically has been a smuggling hot spot.

More than 6,000 rail cars a month

CBP stated that there are an estimated 6,500 rail cars that enter El Paso from Mexico every month. The trains are inspected by CBP officers as they slowly roll across the border and each car undergoes an X-ray scan.

CBP is working with Mexico and the rail companies to try to stop the potentially dangerous train border crossings, Mancha said in a statement.

“Despite our best efforts it does not appear to be slowing down at all,” Mancha said. “We hope that through publicity people will realize that they are risking their lives and in turn will not consider this as an option.”


(c) 2021 the El Paso Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.