McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Federal maps provided to Border Report show concentrations of migrants along the Southwest border, most north of the border wall.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas, this week shared the Homeland Security maps from May that show startling numbers of undocumented migrants well above the border wall from South Texas to southern California.
The maps illustrate heat infrared imagery from May — the same month when Title 42 was lifted and there was a massive surge on the Southwest border by migrants.
Cuellar is ranking member of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, and he said he wants to emphasize that despite millions of dollars spent to build border wall segments, most migrants are apprehended north of the structure.
The metal border wall is 18-feet to 30-feet-tall and newer sections built under the Trump administration have a 5-foot metal anti-climb solid sheet at the top.
However, on any given day, homemade, crude wooden ladders — pieced together hastily from random and often uneven wood — can be found near the border wall where migrants entered into the Rio Grande Valley and other parts along the border.
Homemade ladders are seen near the border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photos)
Republicans in Congress want miles more of border wall to be built.
And the Texas Legislature currently is debating — during its Fourth Special Legislative Session that just started — whether to spend $1.54 billion to build miles more of state-funded border wall along the banks of the Rio Grande that Texas shares with the Mexico.
“The first thing they talk about is the border wall, the border wall, and, and I’d be happy to show them the heat map that shows that Texas is different, because that fence is half a mile a mile away from the river and it doesn’t stop all the asylum seekers,” Cuellar told Border Report.
The maps show large swaths of heat given off from migrants being apprehended from most border cities, like Brownsville, Hidalgo, Del Rio, El Paso, and San Diego. But the imagery also shows apprehensions many miles from the border, like near the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, in rural Brooks County, which is 65 miles north of the Rio Grande.
Heat sensors also picked up apprehensions northeast of Laredo on Interstate 35 near a checkpoint commonly called “Checkpoint Charley.”
“It’ll show you where there’s a fence, and then the heat map shows you the activity,” Cuellar said. “In the Valley where there is fencing, it shows you that’s the highest activity because you know, the fence is not in the middle of the river, which is the international border, and it shows you that the fence doesn’t stop them. It doesn’t stop them.”
The Biden administration last month announced that it will waive dozens of environmental laws in order to quickly build 20 miles of border wall in Starr County, which is part of Cuellar’s district.
“It’s a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem,” he is known for saying.
Republicans want to pressure the Biden administration for tougher immigration policies that will keep more migrants south of the border. And they want any financial aid package for Ukraine tied to border security.
The Biden administration has asked for $13.6 billion as part of a massive $106 billion spending package, which includes aid for Ukraine, Israel and border security funding.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn, of Texas, visited the Rio Grande Valley last month and told reporters he wasn’t sure the border wall was working to keep migrants out — given 2.6 million were encountered on U.S. soil in Fiscal Year 2023.
But he said infrastructure, as well as technology, and changes to border policy could help to stem the flow of migrants north.
“Smugglers, the human smugglers are very smart. They communicate with each other. They figure out where the gaps are and try to exploit those gaps. So I have no idea whether this new construction actually makes any sense,” Cornyn said Oct. 9 during a luncheon.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday that he sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas emphasizing a new Texas law that gives U.S. Border Patrol agents additional authority — under specific circumstances — to enforce state felony charges against migrants for illegal entry if the incident occurs at a port of entry, or Border Patrol checkpoint.
“Texas has been forced to develop new solutions after the federal government abdicated enforcement and even weaponized immigration law to intensify surges of new arrivals at the border. Senate Bill 602 reflects Texans’ desire for a more robust and effective response to the historic levels of unvetted foreign aliens entering our state,” Paxton wrote.
Border Patrol agents must complete a specialized training program with the Texas Department of Public Safety prior to exercising such arrests, according to the new law that Gov. Greg Abbott signed during the 88th Legislature.
The new law took effect Sept. 1.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.