TUCSON — The new chief in charge of patrolling most of Arizona’s international border with Mexico said the arrival of migrant families seeking asylum, especially those turning themselves in to agents in large groups, is pushing the Border Patrol to a “breaking point.”
Roy Villareal addressed the changing flows of migrants along the Arizona-Mexico border on Thursday during his first press conference as the newly appointed chief patrol agent for Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which covers Cochise, Santa Cruz and Pima counties.
Villareal, who began his career in Arizona in 1988, becomes the third sector chief in as many years for the Tucson Sector.
The area remains one the busiest drug and human trafficking areas along the U.S.-Mexico border, although those metrics are down significantly compared to previous years, according to government statistics.
During his remarks, the new border chief echoed top Trump administration officials by saying the agency is not prepared to deal with and handle the arrival of large numbers of families to the U.S.-Mexico border.
But he stopped short of calling it a crisis.
“When you look across the Southwest border, again looking at the system that’s in place not being designed to handle this type of migratory flow, it’s pushed us to a breaking point,” he said. “We don’t have adequate detention facilities.”
n the past six months, large groups, sometimes numbering more than 100, have walked across the border near Lukeville and turned themselves in to agents.
On Tuesday, agents at the Ajo Station processed a group of 102 mostly Honduran and Guatemalan migrants near Lukeville. About half of them were children, the Border Patrol said.
Villareal, who started on the job on March 3, said that processing, transporting and providing care to migrant families is taking his agents’ time away from patrolling the border. He added that, on any given day, between 30 to 50 agents are pulled from patrol to transport migrants to hospitals to receive medical care.
Smugglers are exploiting loopholes to continue smuggling families with children, Villareal said, and are coaching the migrants on the asylum process. He also expressed concern for the groups if they continue crossing through remote areas of the Arizona desert into the summer months.
By Rafael Carranza for AZ CENTRAL
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