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Is Another Migrant Crisis Looming at the Texas Border?

The number of undocumented migrants being detained at the Texas–Mexico border is rising. ";

From Texas Standard

The migrant crisis of 2014 dominated the news last summer. But this week, papers in Houston and San Antonio are reporting that last month nearly 10,000 immigrant families and unaccompanied children were detained at the Texas-Mexico border.

That's an increase of more than 50 percent over the numbers of migrants in August 2015.

Chris Cabrera, a Border Patrol agent in McAllen and vice president of the local border patrol union, says we're looking at the makings of another migrant crisis.

"So far from January to August, we have arrested 35,000 unaccompanied children," he says, noting that the count does not include women and children traveling together.

Cabrera says the U.S. political climate and word-of-mouth are likely causing the spike in numbers.

"Some of the recent court cases saying that we can't hold people in certain shelters, the fact that there is no detention space, and with all the immigration news going on right now, people are really trying to get over here before something changes," he says.

Cabrera says that although Border Patrol has short-term holding facilities to handle the situation, there are not enough agents in the field.

"Last year, we had a lot of manpower flex in from other parts of the country. This year we don't have that luxury," he says.

For Cabrera, it's "a shame" that the humanitarian crisis is being exploited by drug traffickers.

"They use the human cargo to pass the narcotics, meaning they'll bring a group of people, turn themselves in, another group of people to run," he says. "Then it's the old end-around play in football, once everybody's [agents] tied up in the middle, they try to skirt it around the side."

Jim Darling is the mayor of McAllen, Texas. After the city's humanitarian efforts through Catholic Charities last year, he says the conditions in Central America have not changed much.

"The cartels still run those countries to a great degree," Darling says, using kidnapping and sex trafficking as examples. "So there's still the motivation to put moms and kids on the train up north to try to come to the United States."

There is a new pattern, however: Darling says Border Patrol warns of an uptick in adult males coming from Cuba through Mexican cities like Tampico, Reynosa, and Matamoros.

"Because of the rumor of normalization of relationships — which hasn't actually happened yet between the two countries — right now a Cuban can come across, seek asylum here automatically," he says. "If they clear Interpol, then they're released to a hearing date to someplace up north."

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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