Hundreds of CBP officers returned to port duty after assisting U.S. Border Patrol

Texas Tribune News

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents took part in "operational readiness exercises" at the Paso del Norte port of entry last November.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents took part in “operational readiness exercises” at the Paso del Norte port of entry last November.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune

Hundreds of Customs and Border Protection officers who were reassigned in March to assist U.S. Border Patrol agents have returned to their normal duties at the country’s ports, federal officials said.

In late March, more than 700 officers from ports of entry in El Paso; Laredo; Tucson, Arizona; and San Diego were reassigned amid the growing number of migrants reaching the country’s southern border. The asylum-seeking migrants, most of them from Central America, were overwhelming Border Patrol agents.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said the agents returned to normal duty Sunday. About 300 CBP officers from the Laredo field office were included in the reassignment, said Cuellar, whose district includes part of the country’s largest inland port.

“The reallocation of officers caused significant delays at our ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, greatly impacting our country’s economic competitiveness and national security,” he said in a statement.

A CBP spokesperson confirmed that the agents, 731 total, had been sent back to normal duty.

In March, Kevin McAleenan, who was CBP’s commissioner at the time, said the agency was at a “breaking point” as apprehensions approached more than 100,000 that month alone. McAleenan has since been named acting Department of Homeland Security secretary.

The temporary duty ends as immigration agents on the southern border are seeing a significant reduction in the number of migrants trying to enter the country. Two weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the number of people who were apprehended by or surrendered to federal immigration officials on the U.S.-Mexico border dipped by more than 20% from July to August.

After totaling 82,055 apprehensions in July, the agency reported an August total of about 64,000 apprehensions. Although migration tends to dip during the heat of July and August, Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said the drop was a direct result of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including the Migrant Protection Protocols, which require asylum seekers to remain in Mexico until their court hearings.

The Mexican government has also beefed up its southern border enforcement by sending thousands of its national guard troops to patrol that country’s border with Guatemala, where most of the Central Americans enter North America. That deployment came after the Trump administration threatened to slap tariffs on Mexican imports.