EL PASO, TEXAS – It is happening almost every time CBP officers in El Paso process an arriving freight train from Mexico. Migrants are discovered attempting to use the railroad system to enter the country undetected.
Since the beginning of the current fiscal year CBP officers working the two downtown rail crossings have removed 292 undocumented migrants from the trains. That is up more than 60 percent when compared to the 181 noncitizens CBP officers apprehended during the same timeframe a year ago. And in all of fiscal year 2019 CBP officers encountered only 50 people who attempted to enter the U.S. without inspection via rail crossings. CBP officers are encountering migrants from a variety of locations primarily Mexico and Central America.
“We cannot stress how dangerous of a practice this is and we encourage any considering this to not proceed with their plans,” said CBP Director of Field Operations Hector Mancha. “People are climbing on rail cars and hiding in places not designed to accommodate human beings. Fortunately we have yet to encounter anyone who has been maimed while attempting this but I am afraid that at some point we will.”
This dangerous practice is further compounded by the time the crossings take place. International rail exchanges generally occur overnight between midnight and 6 a.m. so as to not impact street traffic in downtown Juarez during daytime and evening hours.
“The potential for a misstep is greater when it is dark and visibility is limited,” said Mancha. “In addition they are also unprotected from the elements including cold winter temperatures and extreme summer heat.”
CBP Officers process arriving railcars at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific crossings on either side of the Paso Del Norte international bridge just south of downtown El Paso. Every arriving rail car is examined using non-intrusive x-ray technology. CBP officers also visually inspect the rail cars as they slowly enter the U.S. from Mexico. Often they are supported by canine teams. Approximately 6,500 rail cars enter El Paso from Mexico on a monthly basis.
During these exams migrants have been found riding on top of rail cars, in naturally occurring voids, holding onto the undercarriage, within brand new vehicles that are being shipped north, and other locations on and within the rail cars. Those taken into custody are generally immediately processed for return to Mexico under Title 42 unless circumstances demand the application of other consequences. That may include someone who is a wanted subject or an individual who has been previously formally removed from the U.S. attempting reentry.
“CBP officers remain vigilant in their efforts to stop this practice. We are also in regular communication with the rail companies and our counterparts in Mexico to work together to stop this dangerous practice, said Mancha. “Despite our best efforts it does not appear to be slowing down at all. We hope that through publicity people will realize that they are risking their lives and in turn will not consider this as an option.”