EL PASO, Texas – Since 2013, the number of migrants on the US southern border claiming political asylum has increased by 2,000 percent.
Right now, there's a backlog of 800,000 cases. That's creating a serious crisis for border patrol agents who have to deal with the surge, and the approaching caravan will only make matters worse.
In 2017, more than 330,000 migrants made asylum claims, and less than 40 percent of them were found to have merit.
With the caravan on its way, the Trump administration is deploying more than 7,000 troops to help deal with the flood of asylum seekers in their ranks.
The commander of those troops, US Northern Command General Terrence O'Shaunessy, recently toured the south Texas border to see the need firsthand.
"We've been given a very important task to help harden the ports of entry and try to make sure that our customs and border personnel can handle the vast numbers that we're likely to see with this migration crisis," he said.
CBN News is down here in El Paso, right on the border fence where we can see Juarez, Mexico across the Rio Grande. The river is very shallow right now, so people can walk right across it very easily. They do that in this area a lot because this fence is what they call the old tortilla curtain – it's so easy to breach in today's environment that it needs to be replaced, and that's exactly what they are doing.
Some construction is going on here as workers install a new and much more substantial fence, but that's not part of Trump's border wall. The reason they are putting this in now is because this area has become really, really busy with migrants crossing illegally, and when they do that, it's extremely expensive for the American taxpayer.
The cost isn't measured only in dollars, but also in health and safety.
"We're starting to see diseases that we haven't seen in decades here....You add that to the cost of the removal proceedings. You add that to the dangers that we as a community face. They are spreading these things and people don't realize that," said Ramiro Cordero from the US Customs and Border Protection El Paso sector.
The Trump administration recently announced those caught entering the country illegally are no longer eligible for asylum. It's a controversial move, but it doesn't mean the migrants will be turned away.
The military on the border is working long hours to help the US Border Patrol prepare to handle thousands of legal asylum seekers.
General O'Shaunessy explains, "Specifically they are initially looking for that engineering capability that will allow us to harden points of entry and make sure that we are able to provide barricades and provide the ability for them to be able to process large numbers of migrants."
The Border Patrol is glad for the help, but they say in the long run, what's really needed is a wall.
El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agent Thomas Schwieger said, "We're constantly having to repair this section of fencing because we get cuts in it all the time. You can cut through it in a matter of seconds to minutes."
"If you just look, I mean to cut through this is going to take a lot more than it is to cut through this," Schwieger said, comparing the old fence to a newer version. "I mean, it's been repaired, all the way through its just section after section like this."
And Cordero explained, "We need to make sure that in the metropolitan areas we have the best barrier that we can have. To give us the right amount of time so that we can prevent, persuade people not to come across, and if not then we can make a safe apprehension. It buys us time."
In the meantime, with more than a thousand migrants a day attempting to cross the Rio Grande, the Border Patrol will take all the help they can get, and the US military is answering the call.