Biden's Scramble to Control Del Rio Crisis Leaves Large Border Sections Unguarded

DHS plan calls for hundreds of agents to be reassigned to deal with influx from Haiti

Illegal migrants walk across the Rio Grande River / Getty Images
September 20, 2021

The Department of Homeland Security's plan to send hundreds of Border Patrol agents to Del Rio, Texas, is leaving large swaths of the U.S.-Mexico border wide open, according to interviews with officials from both agencies.

In response to the surge of mostly Haitian nationals swarming the southern border, DHS committed to moving "400 [Customs and Border Protection] agents and officers" to the Del Rio sector in order to accelerate processing and deportations. DHS will not disclose where those extra agents are coming from, although one Border Patrol agent who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon said DHS requested 30 agents from his outpost in the southwest to be transferred to Del Rio. The plan threatens to exacerbate the existing border crisis in other parts of the country.

"We're already so stretched thin," the individual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. "This puts so much more strain on our normal border patrol work."

A spokesman for CBP said he did not have an exact breakdown of where officers would be coming from and referred the Free Beacon to a public memo from DHS, which laid out its "new comprehensive strategy to address the increase in migrant encounters in the Del Rio Sector of South Texas." The effort to address the 13,000 and growing migrants in Del Rio comes at the cost of leaving hundreds of miles along the U.S.-Mexico border unpatrolled, said one senior DHS official. Another official went on to say that the agency is already creating "processing facilities on the fly," distracting staff from anti-cartel and other security operations.

The official went on to blame the Biden administration's decision to exempt most migrant families from Title 42—a Centers for Disease Control power that allows the U.S. government to turn away migrants before they can apply for asylum. 

"Releasing families on notices to appear [before an immigration judge] is pretty much telling them to go back and kidnap someone, grab a bunch of kids, or lie about any random person with you being your family," the official said. "It's just extremely stupid."

Bruno Lozano, the Democratic mayor of Del Rio, is pleading with the Biden administration to do more to curb the influx of migrants into his town. 

"This is something that really needs to be brought to light," the mayor said in a statement posted on Twitter. "We need quick action from the administration. We need quick attention to this. We need a response in real-time."

In his statement, Lozano emphasized the potential security and health threats caused by the thousands of migrants. A Sept. 10 report released by the DHS inspector general criticized the Biden administration for the lack of disease safety protocols, including the fact that only migrants who show symptoms of illness are tested for COVID-19. 

More than 1.5 million migrants have crossed the southern border in 2021. The month of July saw the most migrant encounters in more than two decades. August saw 208,887 encounters, a slight dip from the previous month but still a 317 percent increase from August 2020.

DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas traveled to Del Rio on Monday and told migrants that the U.S. border, contrary to the beliefs of many attempting to cross into the country, is not open. 

"I want to make sure that it is known that this is not the way to come to the United States. That is false information," Mayorkas said. "Irregular migration poses a serious security risk to the migrants themselves. Trying to enter the United States illegally is not worth the tragedy, the money, or the effort."