EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Triple-digit heat and repeated social media messaging that the U.S. border remains closed to non-qualifying individuals could be making a dent on illegal immigration in the El Paso Sector.
The trend coincides with a streak of afternoon temperatures above 100 degrees, sometimes reaching 106 and 107 and relentless public service announcements on both sides of the border about the Title 42 public health rule remaining in place after May 23.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports a “significant downturn” in new migrant encounters as well as a decrease in the number of people in the custody of immigration agents in the past two weeks. The latter can also be attributed to the removals of ineligible migrants from El Paso’s Central Processing Station. Chief Border Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez reported that 4,300 such migrants were removed in less than a week, mostly on flights back to Haiti.
Chavez in mid-May was tweeting about daily encounters climbing above 1,200; federal officials say daily encounters are now in the 700 to 800 range.
“The El Paso Sector saw an average of more than 1,000 migrant encounters a day during the months of April and May. Since the beginning of June, we’ve seen a decrease in encounters that average around 775 migrant encounters a day,” the Border Patrol said in an email to Border Report.
The agency said it’s too early to say for sure what’s driving down the numbers.
But officials on both sides of the border have been constantly warning potential newcomers about rising temperatures along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“CBP has been messaging about the dangers of crossing the border illegally between the ports of entry during the extreme heat of the Chihuahuan Desert. We want to save lives and we are trying to be proactive in warning migrants not to cross in these extreme heat conditions,” said Landon Hutchens, a CBP spokesman.
In Juarez, where shelters were full just a couple of weeks ago and dozens of migrants could be observed sleeping on the streets and on the steps of Downtown businesses, officials are relaying a similar message.
“This is not the best time to make the trip, not just because of their personal safety, but also because of the weather,” said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Population Council that runs Juarez’s Migrant Assistance Center. “We ask them to wait for official information and not to trust smugglers whose only interest is to make money off of them.”
An El Paso nonprofit that assists migrants released from immigration custody also says it is receiving a lot fewer guests than just a week ago.
The shelters of Annunciation House on Monday accommodated 220 individuals, compared to 650 the previous Monday. However, Executive Director Ruben Garcia cautioned against reading too much into the decreases. “One moment it’s fewer, and the next ‘the sky is falling, the sky is falling!’” he said.
Border agents also wish an unfortunate streak of drownings in area canals discourages migrants from placing their lives at risk.
“So far, we have seen 23 dead migrants, unfortunately, compared to (all of) fiscal year 2021 when we saw 39,” said Border Patrol spokesman Orlando Marrero. Five migrants drowned just last week trying to cross irrigation canals that run parallel to the border wall.
Marrero said the Border Patrol is experiencing a “historic” number of migrant encounters – 143,000 so far in fiscal year 2022 just in the El Paso Sector – and that leads to more rescues and fatalities.
“We are dealing with criminal organizations that are promising migrants safe passage and safe crossing of the border when we know that is a lie,” he said. “They are lied to for financial gain. They don’t care about the safety of the migrants; they don’t care about the life of the migrants. They’re going to use them to distract us and move our resources to perform those rescues to push a bigger group through the area.”