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Border Patrol's Presidio Station Sees Growing Number Of Migrant Families

By Sally Beauvais

An unprecedented surge in the number of families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border is trickling into a remote area of West Texas, according to immigration authorities in Customs and Border Protection's Big Bend Sector.

"Right now the Presidio station, they’re seeing arrest numbers here that have been unprecedented in this station’s area," the sector's Chief Patrol Agent Matthew Hudack told Marfa Public Radio Tuesday. "So we are in very unique territory."

In a statement released this week, CBP officials say agents arrested nearly 650 migrants in the Big Bend Sector in the first 13 days of May. More than half of the apprehensions occurred in the Presidio station's jurisdiction -— a 113 mile stretch of the 517 miles of Texas-Mexico border the sector is charged with patrolling.

According to Hudack, that amounts to a 400 percent increase in the number of local apprehensions in and around Presidio since this time last year.

While there's been a recent uptick in the number of migrants apprehended in the Big Bend sector, historically, the far West Texas outpost has seen the least amount of migrant crossings. Of the nine border sectors, Big Bend saw roughly 1.7 percent of the total apprehensions in fiscal year 2016.

This year, officials say the vast majority of recent arrests have been families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Hudack says few of the families are claiming asylum while in local CBP custody, but that may change as they go through the remainder of the immigration process. "As they move through the process, either they decide to share that claim or they learn how to do it."

Local agents are also seeing an increase in the number of migrants traveling in larger groups.

Hudack says that’s putting a strain on his sector, where there’s less staff per square mile than in neighboring regions like El Paso or Del Rio.

"If we arrest a group of 50, the amount of agents that it takes us to detain, transport, process and care for nearly consumes all of the manpower that we have available at that station," said Hudack.

After being held locally, the migrants are transferred 250 miles west to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement custody in El Paso.

Sally Beauvais is a reporter at Marfa Public Radio.