Border patrol closes ramshackle migrant holding pen near where top Trump official declared crisis

EL PASO — The Border Patrol over the weekend shut down a ramshackle holding pen — located under a highway bridge, surrounded by chain-link fence and topped with razor wire — that had at times been crowded with as many as 1,000 overall migrants who’d just crossed the border.

The pen became a new flash point in the nationwide debate over immigration when it was seen in news reports across the country last week after federal authorities said they had no choice but to put newly arrived immigrants there.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection had said the holding pen was needed because the Border Patrol had run out of space at federal processing facilities as an influx of people, including many families from Central America, has led to a 12-year high in border apprehensions.

The shutdown, begun Saturday evening hours, and finished just hours before a congressional delegation led by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, was to visit the area Sunday. 

A U.S. Customs Border Protection spokesman confirmed late Sunday that the holding pen was shut down, noting that the “number of apprehensions has continued to increase steadily and the decision was made to relocate to a location with more space and more shelter capability. Although aliens that were being held in the transitional area are being moved, the building adjacent to Paso Del Norte will continue to serve as a processing facility.”

The spokesman added that migrants were moved to other CBP facilities in the El Paso Border Patrol Sector, which includes El Paso and New Mexico, for processing, authorities said. 

The pen was located just a few blocks from where a large number of Democrats on Saturday were celebrating the official beginning of Beto O’Rourke’s run for the presidency and where Republicans held a counter-rally.

While human rights advocates agree that the arrival of thousands of migrants poses a humanitarian crisis, critics, led by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, questioned Sunday the timing and tactics used by immigration authorities under the direction of the Trump administration.

BY Alfredo Corchado for DALLAS NEWS

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