Crisis at the Southern Border:  “The System’s in a Meltdown”

CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest border.

According to CBP, border control resources are currently beyond capacity.  In March, the number of illegal or between crossings reached 103,000, eclipsing the previous record of 89,000 set between March of 2008-2009.  The demographics of individuals crossing our border has also changed.  Mexican citizens and single adult males made up the majority of border crossings in 2008, while today CBP says it is seeing predominantly families and unaccompanied minors entering the country in groups of more than 100.

With at least 3,000 detentions daily, CBP says that the agency is running out of detention space and has led to more resources being expended.  Ron Vitiello, Acting ICE Director, told reporters on Thursday “The system’s in a meltdown” and getting worse every day.  In order to alleviate the overcrowding at ICE detention centers, family units with no criminal history are being released to NGOs or on their own recognizance.

In response to the crisis, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has called for CBP’s assistance with the increase of migrants crossing into the U.S.  As part of this response, CBP has redeployed 545 officers to assist the ports of entry hardest hit by the crisis, including Rio Grande Valley, TX; El Paso, TX; San Diego, CA and Yuma, AZ.  If more assistance is needed, CBP will begin pulling officers from U.S. airports, with international airports and gateway airports impacted first, but they stressed that every airport will feel the impact.

CBP Commissioner Kevin McAlleena held a press conference (transcript here) in El Paso last week to announce the agency’s plan to redirect CBP officers to the southern border.  “Two weeks ago, I briefed the media and testified in Congress that our immigration system was at the breaking point.  That breaking point has arrived this week at our border,” he said.

What Does the Southern Border Crisis Mean for Shippers?

The crisis at the border is significantly increasing wait and exam times for cargo all along the Mexican border.  The peak wait time at the Bridge of the Americas on Wednesday was seven hours, compared to fifty minutes the same time last year.  Wait times in Otay Mesa were doubled, while Hidalgo reported wait times of approximately one hundred twenty-five minutes, versus the thirty-five minutes reported during the same period last year.  Two out of eight lanes are currently closed in San Luis.  San Diego should also expect longer wait times.  An increase in trucks waiting in the overnight queue has also been reported, which means border crossings the next day will start off behind schedule.  Ports of Entry in Mariposa will be closed on Sundays to allow for reallocation of twenty officers to the weekdays.  The Bridge of the Americas in El Paso will be closed on Saturdays.  CBP warns that wait times will continue to lengthen.  For up to the minute wait times, visit the CBP’s mobile app by clicking here.

CBP stated that the agency is trying to maintain FAST/CTPAT lanes at the ports, but with the length of wait times, they do not have a way to control the queue on the Mexican side of the border.

While shippers have the option to direct to other ports, all will see an increase in expected wait time.

This deployment will also impact shipments leaving the U.S. as there is far less staff overall.

CBP is aware of the economic impact this has on American businesses, but they must manage the immigration situation.

Seaports and rail have not yet been affected by the border crisis.