EL PASO, Texas -- The Trump administration announced over the weekend it would cut aid to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The move comes as US border officials claim they have reached the breaking point on the southern US border, even as more Central American migrants begin the trek north intending to claim asylum in the US.
In the shade of the pedestrian bridge connecting Juarez, Mexico with El Paso, Texas, hundreds of Central American migrants receive a catered meal and medical checks by a handful of overworked border patrol officers.
Above them on the bridge are dozens of families waiting in line for up to two weeks as they wait to make asylum claims. But down below, migrants decided to jump the line and enter illegally between the ports of entry. Now that they are on American soil, they must be given a court date, but with the system already crushed under the weight of more than a million asylum seekers ahead of them, these Central American families know they will be allowed to live in the United States for up to three years before they get their day in court.
And if at that point the judge orders their deportation -- statistics cited by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
On Wednesday, Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan visited the El Paso border fence to brief journalists, and his message was a call for help.
"Here in El Paso we have over 3,500 migrants in custody this morning, in facilities designed for many fewer," McAleenan said. "We had over a thousand apprehensions in this one sector alone on Monday."
There are thousands of migrants that have been captured over the past couple days being held in a detention facility underneath the bridge to Juarez.
But you have to understand this is not the normal detention process. This is not the normal facility that they're kept in, the problem is Border Patrol agents have been picking up more than 4,000 people a day for the last couple of days. And that's far beyond their capacity to take care of people. It's gotten so bad, the Border Patrol is saying they are just going to have to let these people go.
"This humanitarian mission, which we are committed to, is undermining our border security efforts," McAleenan noted. "While 65 percent of crossings are now families and children, who most often present themselves to Border Patrol agents, 35 percent are still single adults who try to evade apprehension at our border."
And the truth is, nobody really knows how many illegal crossers enter the United States without being caught. A hundred miles west of El Paso on the border in New Mexico, ranchers say the tidal wave of migrants has left the Border Patrol unable to cover this remote stretch of desert where they live.
"I'm Russell Johnson. I'm the fourth generation to be ranching out here with my family, and this is the barrier that we've got in one stretch of area that my family farms," one of the ranchers told CBN News.
"And as you can see it serves no purpose to stop vehicles or people. It's been cut multiple times, you can step right over it. I mean, it does nothing to stop illegal traffic from coming through, it's not even a deterrent," Johnson said.
CBN News Correspondent Chuck Holton demonstrated how easy it is for migrants to cross at this point on the border. They merely have to jump a short fence.
"Our sheriff's department is spread thin as it is, and so we rely heavily on Border Patrol for our only form of law enforcement out here," Johnson added. "And so with this influx of people drawing down the manpower within the Border Patrol we are basically left lawless out here."
The Border Patrol commissioner sounded a warning on this very issue.
"The same criminal elements that are smuggling migrants, profiting from them, abusing them on the journey, are benefitting from our security presence," McAleenan noted. "They are bringing drugs. They are bringing adults who are trying to evade capture behind those families as we are bogged down with large groups."
As if to prove his point, just as the commissioner was set to begin his remarks, a group from El Salvador crossed the Rio Grande and turned themselves in. But not everyone agrees there is a crisis.
During McAleenan's speech, a small group of protesters held signs in front of a giant inflatable effigy of the US president. Their message? Border Patrol agents are the criminals, and America should have no borders at all.
But these ranchers couldn't disagree more.
"What we need is a wall," said one rancher.