US closes 2 rail crossings in Texas so agents can help process migrants

By Isaac M December 18, 2023

U.S. authorities temporarily shut down two railroad border crossings in Texas on Monday to shift officers to helping process migrants, drawing warnings from rail operators that the temporary closures would hamper trade ahead of Christmas.

The decision by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to suspend operations at rail crossings in Eagle Pass and El Paso adds another tension point over immigration amid a struggle in Washington between the White House and Senate negotiators to reach a deal on border security.

At the same time, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott was preparing to sign a new law that would give police sweeping new powers to arrest migrants on illegal entry and empower local judges to order them to leave the country.

“After observing a recent resurgence of smuggling organizations moving migrants through Mexico via freight trains, CBP is taking additional actions to surge personnel and address this concerning development, including in partnership with Mexican authorities,” the agency said in a statement.

Last month, CBP also closed down one of two international bridges in Eagle Pass for the same reason. Similar actions were taken in other busy parts of the border, including Lukeville, Arizona, and San Diego.

Union Pacific said the two crossings in Texas account for 45% of its cross-border business and urged the government to reopen the locations immediately. It said each day the border is closed would halt the movement of goods on nearly 4,500 rail cars.

“There isn’t enough capacity at our other four gateways to reroute them,” the company said in a statement.

Three months of big increases in illegal border crossings was followed in October by a 14% decrease, according to federal government data.

Throughout the weekend, senators and White House officials worked behind closed doors at the Capitol on a border security deal that Republicans in Congress are demanding in exchange for any help for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs.

The talks also focused on removing some migrants who have already been living in the U.S. without full legal status, and on ways to temporarily close the U.S.-Mexico border to some crossings if they hit a certain threshold. Arrests of migrants have topped 10,000 on some days.

“Trade is slowly coming to a standstill, and our law enforcement officers are exhausted ahead of a demoralizing holiday season that will keep them working overtime,” said Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican whose district includes Eagle Pass and a large swath of the Texas border. “If there were ever a time to sound the alarm, this would be it.”


Weber reported from Austin, Texas.


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