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News in review: The border crisis


WORLD Radio - News in review: The border crisis

The number of immigrants illegally crossing into the United States this year shattered all records

Migrants wait along a border wall on Aug. 23, 2022, after crossing from Mexico near Yuma, Ariz. Associated Press Photo/Gregory Bull

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Thursday the 29th of December, 2022.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Today, we continue reviewing the biggest news of the year.

This time, the crisis at the southern border. The number of immigrants illegally crossing into the United States this year shattered all records: 2.4 million, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

BROWN: Title 42 permits border officials to turn back immigrants on public health grounds before they seek asylum. That law remains in place for now.

But the failure of the federal government to fix the immigration system has resulted in a humanitarian crisis.

REICHARD: WORLD Correspondent Bonnie Pritchett visited South Texas in September and brings us an updated report.

BONNIE PRITCHETT, CORRESPONDENT: Days before Title 42 was due to expire, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited El Paso. He met with local officials and Border Patrol agents and told reporters how the Biden administration will address rising migration.

MAYORKAS: What we do is we plan for what might occur and we develop different plans for different scenarios and then rather than be too predictive, because its so difficult to understand, so difficult to predict, we just prepare for different options…

The weekend before Mayorkas arrived in El Paso, so did a caravan of almost 7500 immigrants.

REPORTER: A massive border crossing in Texas overnight as hundreds of migrants trekked across the Rio Grande to reach the United States…

Until then, daily border crossings into El Paso averaged 900.

AUDIO: With that the chair calls director Steve McCraw…

In August Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw testified before a State Senate committee on Border Security.

DPS MCGRAW: Clearly, without any question…the most significant threat to public safety in the State of Texas and Homeland Security in the State of Texas, and I would argue throughout the nation is an unsecured and national border with Mexico. Period…

President Joe Biden dismissed such concerns when asked if he would visit the border while in Arizona this month. As he walked toward the helicopter waiting on the White House lawn, Fox News reporter Peter Doocy shouted a question.

DOOCY: Why go to a border state and not visit the border?

BIDEN: Because there are more important things going on; they’re going to invest billions of dollars in a new enterprise in the state…

The human price extracted at the southern border has cost the region and the migrants more than money.

Border Patrol agents are overwhelmed. Jason Owens is the Border Patrol operations chief for the Del Rio Sector, that includes the small city of Eagle Pass.

OWENS: Well, for me, the technical definition is when the the circumstances of the event overcome your available resources to deal with that event. And so that can be on an emotional level that can be on a physical level…

In September, Del Rio Sector agents apprehended about 1500 to 2000 illegal immigrants a day. To address the surge, the Department of Homeland Security erected a larger, temporary processing facility. The department also allowed its employees from other divisions to volunteer for one-month stints at the facility. It hired contractors to relieve agents of paperwork duties.

OWENS: And I still argue that we don't have enough. And I don't think, if you ask anybody, they're all gonna agree. That's, that's being overwhelmed. That's, that's at a That's at an operational level…

In addition to processing immigrants who crossed the border illegally, agents provide humanitarian assistance. Attempts to rescue people from the Rio Grande don’t always end well. On one day in September, nine people drowned, including children, trying to cross the river.

OWENS: And there is no break, there is no end in sight, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. That's what it means to be over overwhelmed emotionally.

U.S. Representative Tony Gonzales believes those working conditions are partly to blame for an unprecedented number of suicides among Border Patrol agents this year.

REP. GONZALES: These things they are seeing, what they’ve been exposed to, 100 percent, has an impact on you. I go back to it. It reminds me of my time in the military, these war-like situations are they leave an everlasting impact on you…

At least three of the 14 who took their lives worked on the U.S. southern border.

At a news conference this month, Gonzales and seven other representatives introduced the bipartisan Taking Action to Prevent Suicides, or TAPS, Act. The legislation will provide mental health support for Border Patrol agents.

The bill would create a multi-agency task force to assess underlying factors contributing to the high suicide rate. It would also protect agents’ from poor job performance reviews for seeking mental health care.

The unprecedented migration also has residents on edge.

MARTIN WALL: Like this morning. They picked up three busloads here…

Martin Wall grew up on this 1000-acre ranch outside Eagle Pass less than two miles from the Rio Grande. He pointed out his front window to the dirt driveway that skirts his yard.

WALL: Just think about three buses getting three busloads of people walking through your backyard…

As a kid, Wall roamed the property alone until dark.

Not his kids – at least not during the last two years.

A trained guard dog escorts his son on the property. His 17-year-old daughter is armed.

WALL: A little girl ought to be able to not have to go out there on our own property and have a pistol on her side…

It’s common for kids raised in the country to learn to use a firearm at an early age.

WALL: But they never pack them on their hip. Maybe for a snake or something but not for people.

The porous border has put residents like Maverick County deputy Denise Cantu in an untenable position.

Cantu grew up in Eagle Pass. In September she stood on the bank of the Rio Grande and reflected on life in her hometown. As the mother of two young girls, Cantu doesn’t want to see another child drown in the river. As an officer of the law, she wants the never-ending illegal immigration cycle to end.

DEPUTY CANTU: We'll get called out, “Hey, there's 300 immigrants coming from Gemalto, into town.” And there we are National Guard, DPS, sheriff's office, you know, trying to wait on them to come over here. I mean, We can't stop all 300. There's not enough of us. They still get apprehended, turned over to BP and BP does their process. Then they'll get released. So, you'll see them again.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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