BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS—On Wednesday night, migrants from around the world lined up along the banks of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Mexico, and shared libations to the sound of boisterous music.
"They’re having a party," remarked one Border Patrol officer stationed at Camp Monument, which is located just a few hundred feet away from Mexican soil. Once a public golf course, Camp Monument is now a massive command post staffed with dozens of troops and staff from the Texas National Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Department of Homeland Security.
Camp Monument was eerily silent when the clock struck midnight. Title 42—a public health rule that allowed immigration authorities to quickly deport illegal border crossers—had officially ended. But instead of the expected deluge of aliens, only a few dozen swam across the river now lined with barbed wire thanks to last-minute preparations by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R.).
The anti-climactic start to a post-Title 42 United States left many in the media and in the federal government scratching their heads. But others, including law enforcement stationed at the border, said there is little reason to believe the calm will last.
"The cartels are just waiting and biding their time," said a senior Border Patrol official on Friday. "They’re going to get in, it’s just a question of where and when."
The end of Title 42 still resulted in record-high crossings. Authorities apprehended more than 11,600 aliens from Thursday evening through Friday morning, internal Department of Homeland Security figures obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show.
That figure is lower than the 16,000 some in the government predicted, but is still the most in U.S. history. The week of May 7 saw more than 83,000 illegal border crossings, another record.
There were nearly 24,500 aliens in Customs and Border Protection custody, as of Friday afternoon, an 89 percent increase over the 90-day average. The White House anticipates that agents could have 45,000 aliens in custody by the end of the month, virtually all of whom would be single men and children.
Authorities have encountered more than 5 million aliens since President Joe Biden took office. At least another 1.4 million illegal aliens have entered the United States without apprehension.
Few of the tens of thousands of migrants waiting in Mexico plan to start a new life in Matamoros or Reynosa. They are simply biding their time until they—and the cartels who run massive human smuggling rings—find new weak points on the southern border, law enforcement sources told the Free Beacon.
Human smuggling is a multibillion-dollar industry, the officials said, and there are no indications the cartels plan on shuttering their business any time soon. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday that "it is too early" to assume the current lull in border crossings, which dropped 50 percent Friday through Saturday in Texas, are permanent.
For the time being, law enforcement credits Abbott for minimizing the surge in the state. Aside from the barbed wire, the Texas governor deployed the Texas Tactical Border Force, a specially trained unit of the National Guard, to hotspots along the border days before the end of Title 42.
Troops stood and physically blocked migrants from crossing the border, while others yelled over a loudspeaker in Spanish that trespassers would be deported. Mayorkas implied last week that Abbott’s actions could be unlawful, though his agency has yet to take any legal action.
"It’s amazing what a difference putting troops with rifles on the border will make," said one senior Department of Homeland Security official. "Just think if we did this two years ago."
A Florida judge’s 11th-hour order that stopped a White House plan to rapidly release aliens from custody without a court date may have also temporarily stemmed the flow, one senior Border Patrol official suggested. The White House said it will appeal the ruling.
In downtown Brownsville, migrants waiting for a bus to take them to cities across the nation expressed relief that they crossed the border before the end of Title 42. But the group dismissed the idea that much has changed with the Biden administration’s new policies. One Cuban man named Sebastian said he knew others who were still making the journey north.
"I’m waiting for some friends who are in Mexico City. Along the way, Mexican police took their money," Sebastian said, adding that he expects his wife to join him soon.
Every migrant who spoke with the Free Beacon said they did not have a hearing with an immigration court for years. One man from Venezuela said he was free to live in the United States until at least 2027.
"The aliens will just bide their time like they have been," the Homeland Security official said. "They will eventually be taken care of by the NGOs." Nonprofit organizations have rushed to the Mexican side of the border to help migrants apply for asylum. Republicans have criticized the conduct of those NGOs for years and allege they help facilitate illegal immigration.
Arizona, whose Democratic governor Katie Hobbs neglected to take the same kind of measures as her Texan counterpart, bore the brunt of the post-Title 42 surge. By Friday afternoon, some Customs and Border Protection holding facilities in Arizona were at 200 percent capacity.
That led the liberal city of Nogales, Arizona, to take a play from a red state governor and, according to photos shared with the Free Beacon, move aliens on chartered buses to unknown locations. Hundreds of aliens were released into Yuma, Arizona, without a court date on Saturday.