The purpose of a bridge is to unite two separate areas. It serves as a conduit to connect, and that’s the intention of the Paso Del Norte International Bridge. This bridge is also a divider as it was constructed as a border between Mexico and the U.S, and since last week it was also where people had to remain by law. It’s not foreign to see homeless people living under bridges, but in the case of the El Paso bridge, it was also a temporary facility used by the border patrol to house undocumented immigrants. Last week, images of people, including children, living under the bridge and surrounded by barbed wire left many in shock. Thankfully the area has now been shut down.
According to Time magazine, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has closed their temporary facility, which they were using as a holding area to process incoming undocumented immigrants to sort who were asylum seekers and who’d they deny. The publication is reporting that as of late yesterday, the CBP said they would relocate the undocumented immigrants “to a place with more space and shelter.”
While the exact number of undocumented immigrants that were being held in the temporary facility is unclear, The New York Times reports that El Paso is currently seeing an estimate of “570 migrants a day.” The Times also reports that people awaiting processing would be in that enclosed area between “several hours to a couple of days.”
BuzzFeed News interviewed a Honduran man, who they quoted as M. Gonzalez who had to be placed in the holding area under the bridge. He said he has never experienced anything like it.
This is El Paso right now, where hundreds of migrant families are being held in the parking lot of a Border Patrol station because there is no room for them inside, or anywhere else. pic.twitter.com/lFGZ9zRcZk
— Nick Miroff (@NickMiroff) March 27, 2019
“It’s hell there,” Gonzalez told BuzzFeed News. “The bridge is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. I regretted coming.” Gonzalez added, “I’m not sure I would’ve come if I had known.”
The story goes on to say that people in the temporary facility would hear people from above them on the bridge saying to them things such as “You’re not alone,” “You’re with God,” You’re not welcomed,” and “Go back to your country.”
While most of these images and stories got to the public this past week, a VICE correspondent tweeted that the CBP has been holding people there for about a month. He described the area as a “low-budget zoo.”
“I met people from Honduras, Guatemala, and Brazil. I met men, women, and children. Lots of children. An 8-year-old, a four-year-old, a five-month-old. Everyone was wrapped in the same foil you’ve seen elsewhere. It’s what they use to keep warm,” he tweeted. “There are no beds, cots, or mats outside. These people are sleeping on gravel. I saw it last night — hundreds of people sleeping side by side on gravel. It’s cold here at night (I was cold), and you can see it. At most, these people have light jackets. What they need are blankets.”
In response to their holding area, the CBP told BuzzFeed News: “The tent that is set up underneath the Paso Del Norte port of entry and adjacent to the Border Patrol’s Processing Facility is a transitional shelter. Due to the large volume of apprehensions within the El Paso Station’s Area of Responsibility, the agency has undertaken additional measures to facilitate processing.”