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Del Rio Border Patrol Union: The agency could’ve been better prepared, but leadership didn’t listen

The U.S. Border Patrol and its unions, whether in the Del Rio Sector or in the Rio Grande Valley, have been open about the record number of crossings at the border.

DEL RIO, Texas — It took about a week to clear out an estimated 17,000 migrants from under a bridge in Del Rio. Human rights advocates criticized the conditions. Officials on the ground admitted it was a mess, at least in the very beginning when thousands started showing up.

The U.S. Border Patrol and its unions, whether in the Del Rio Sector or in the Rio Grande Valley, have been open about the record number of crossings at the Texas-Mexico border and what the agency has been trying to do about them.

The Border Patrol Union in the Del Rio sector told KENS 5 the agents have been busy for months. So back in June, it suggested to leadership the agency was prepared for what could happen. The union in Del Rio said, no one listened.

“Around June or so, we started having more and more people cross,” said Jon Anfinsen, local President for the Border Patrol Union in the Del Rio Sector. “And we started having to mandate agents to work overtime. So, they're starting to work like a six day (week) and additional hours. And that was in response to the increased level of crossings, both in size of group and frequency.”

Based on what the agents in the Del Rio Sector were seeing in the field, Anfinsen said the union looked ahead at what could be done. Anfinsen told KENS 5 he reached out to his local Border Patrol leadership about what they might do under or near the bridge in Del Rio to prepare for possibly even more people.

“The union actually sat down with the agency said, ‘look, we need to start setting up some kind of facilities down here. We start small, you bring some laptops or tablets down here, trailers, tents, or an RV just to kind of start the process, because a lot of times they [migrants] would get here and they have to wait for hours for transport. Because [if] it's 400 people, we’ve got to scramble buses and all that to show up.’”

Anfinsen showed KENS 5 a copy of an email from June 1 with some suggestions.

“We suggested to the agency, ‘hey, let's get something some kind of temporary infrastructure down there to at least get the ball rolling when a group shows up,’” Anfinsen said. “And ultimately, they said, ‘no, we have other ways of dealing with it.’ That was in June.”

“Were they going to build a gigantic facility in June? No,” Anfinsen added. “But if we had at least something down here, it certainly would have helped.”

In mid-August, about a month before an estimated 15,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, came to the bridge and stayed, the Del Rio Station Patrol Agent in Charge showed KENS 5 what the agency had set up to keep migrants waiting to be processed from the heat and the beating sun.

The photos below (provided by Texas DPS) show the conditions of the Del Rio bridge during the processing and after it was cleared of the crowd.

Credit: Texas DPS
Credit: Texas DPS

RELATED: More than 2,000 local, state and federal agencies responded to a surge in migrants in Del Rio last week

“If you compare it to where they were, to what it is now, [it’s] 100 times better,” Rick Moreno, Patrol Agent in Charge of the Del Rio Border Patrol Station told KENS 5. “We brought them water, we brought them porta potties, we also have non-governmental organizations that provides them food.”

Anfinsen told KENS 5, he believed the union’s suggestions, for a more substantial set up, including additional trailers, tablets and laptops for processing, could’ve helped with an estimated 15,000 migrants who crossed into Del Rio just three months after he sent his first email.

“I'm not saying I was clairvoyant,” Anfinsen told KENS 5. “I'm not saying the Union saw this coming. But it absolutely makes sense to start preparations for something on a much larger scale. And unfortunately, they just didn't think it was a good idea. And that's fine. That's their call.”

It took several days to get additional resources brought in to provide enough water, food and basic facilities to the thousands of migrants under the bridge in Del Rio. And about a week to get people from under it.

Based on what’s been going on at the border for well over a year, it’s safe to say more people are coming. Question is, will the agency that’s had a lot of practice do anything differently next time around or should it?

“Border Patrol is generally reactive,” Anfinsen said. “The federal government's also reactive as a whole, but Border Patrol is as well. And if it's not a disaster right now, it's probably not going to get a whole lot of attention.”

Anfinsen told KENS 5, he wished his sector has a similar set up to what the Border Patrol has in the Rio Grande Valley. There is a temporary processing site under the Anzalduas bridge.

RELATED: 'There's too many people coming in' | Border Patrol processing migrants in unsheltered area under bridge as influx continues

That processing facility has been criticized by human rights groups, saying the agency can and must do better than having people sleeping on the ground.

KENS 5 reached out to the Del Rio Border Patrol for comment. We were told to reach out to DHS in Washington, D.C. It is not clear why, because the union was asking local leadership for changes.