McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — It took law enforcement several hours to get control of the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas, on Tuesday after hundreds of migrants stormed the bridge trying to enter the United States from Mexico without immigration documents, according to several officials.
The events unfolded just a day after border officials in El Paso, in West Texas, also were confronted with hundreds of asylum-seekers who tried to illegally cross and had to fire pepper balls to deter them, officials said.
Brownsville Mayor John Cowen said in a statement “at least 200 migrants attempted to force their way across the Gateway Bridge,” just after midnight on Tuesday. This caused the bridge leading from Matamoros, Mexico, to remain closed for several hours.
The group tried to cross by running across the pedestrian and vehicular bridge to the U.S. side. Around 1:30 a.m., U.S. Customs and Border Protection “reached out to the Brownsville Police Department for support as the migrant group would not retreat. Other law enforcement agencies including federal, state, and local personnel supported the operation,” Cowen said.
It took the Mexican military about four hours “to push the migrants back to Mexico,” said Cowen, who took over as mayor of the South Texas border town in May.
On the U.S. side, officials put up physical barriers, and implemented what’s called “port hardening measures” in order to stop the masses, officials said.
The Gateway International Bridge reopened to pedestrian traffic at 9:20 a.m. — over nine hours after the group first tried to cross the bridge. Vehicular traffic resumed by 9:42 a.m., federal officials said.
A CBP official told Border Report on Wednesday: “CBP is working to maintain the legal and orderly flow of entry to the U.S. while protecting the safety and security of legitimate trade and travel, including the safety of the traveling public, CBP facilities and the CBP workforce.”
Rumors were circulating that Mexican drug cartels had told asylum-seekers in Juarez and Matamoros that the United States would be accepting undocumented migrants and that is what triggered the rush at the bridge.
In response, a CBP official said: “No one should believe the lies of smugglers. The fact is that individuals and families without a legal basis to remain in the United States will be removed.”
The CBP official stressed the Title 8 pathways that migrants must follow in order to be considered for asylum in the United States. These regulations replaced Title 42 restrictions that were lifted in May that had prevented migrants from claiming asylum at the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Those who fail to use one of the many lawful pathways we have expanded will be presumed ineligible for asylum and, if they do not have a basis to remain, will be subject to prompt removal, a minimum five-year bar on admission, and potential criminal prosecution for unlawful reentry,” the CBP official said.
Migrants who are sent back to Mexico or their home countries and try to re-enter the United States prior to five years face up to a 20-year ban and criminal prosecution.