BORDER SECURITYMore Than 1,500 Migrants Wade Across the Rio Grande into El Paso in One Day

By Corrie Boudreaux

Published 13 December 2022

Over the weekend, U.S. immigration officials processed and released more than 1,700 migrants into El Paso, overwhelming local shelters.

In one of the largest mass crossings ever in the region, more than 1,500 migrants waded across the Rio Grande from Juárez into El Paso Sunday night.

“Welcome to the United States!” a young man in the middle of the Rio Grande shouted to the hundreds of migrants arriving at the border from shelters in Juárez on Sunday night. “You made it!”

The migrants who crossed Sunday night were in a group of hundreds who were escorted by Chihuahua State Police from the city of Jiménez to Juárez earlier in the day in a caravan of 20 buses. The buses split up in Juárez and brought migrants to the Leona Vicario and Kiki Romero shelters.

The migrants said they were from Nicaragua, Peru and Ecuador.

U.S. immigration officials declined to comment Sunday night.

The mass crossing came at a time when Border Patrol facilities and nongovernmental shelters in El Paso are stressed beyond capacity.

More than 5,100 migrants were held as of Sunday in the Border Patrol Central Processing Center, which is designed to temporarily hold 3,500 people, according to a dashboard maintained by the city of El Paso.

U.S. immigration officials released 1,744 migrants in El Paso on Saturday and Sunday. Because that was more than the available beds at shelters run by nongovernmental organizations, 611 of them were released on the streets in downtown El Paso, according to the dashboard.

Border Patrol agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers in the El Paso region, which includes New Mexico, have encountered almost 15,000 migrants in the past week, according to the dashboard. That is the highest weekly total of the year so far.

Federal and local officials are bracing for continued growth in migrant crossings with the end of Title 42, a controversial policy begun during the Trump administration and expanded in the Biden administration to quickly expel many migrants on public health grounds. A federal judge has said the policy must end by Dec. 21, though the Biden administration is appealing the ruling.

The caravan that arrived Sunday had been stopped in Jiménez on Thursday by Chihuahua state officials who said Juárez could not handle more migrants. But the migrants were allowed to go to Juárez on buses Sunday.