At The Border, Hundreds Of Would-Be Immigrants Are Being Held In An Outdoor Pen And Sleeping On Dirt

"It's hell there."

Migrants travel northward.
Joe Readle / Getty Images

"It's hell there."

Right now, migrants that number in the hundreds are being detained by U.S. authorities in a makeshift outdoor camp below a bridge that connects the U.S. and Mexico, BuzzFeed News reports. The inhabitants of the camp, which is situated under the Paso Del Norte International Bridge that links Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, report miserably cold conditions where they struggle to stay warm under thin mylar blankets as roosting pigeons defecate from above. The ground on which they sleep is bare and rocky and the camp is surrounded by chainlink fences with razor wire.

“I see it as a punishment for entering the country illegally,” said one occupant, who did not provide her full name. “Time moved so slow, it seemed like an eternity.”

Immigration officials report that a continuing influx of migrant families arriving in an attempt to enter the United States has overwhelmed traditional facilities, forcing the creation of temporary alternatives like this one.

“[Customs and Border Protection]’s facilities and manpower cannot support this dramatic increase in apprehensions of family units and unaccompanied children,” Andrew Meehan, assistant commissioner of public affairs for Custom and Border said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “USBP temporary holding facilities were simply not designed to process and care for a population of this size and of this demographic.”

Meehan also indicated that the immigration system in the U.S. is currently broken and is surpassing critical capacity levels at the southern border.

Residents of the makeshift holding facility are typically there for several days before being released in advance of scheduled appearances before immigration judges. Immigration officials make clear that camps like this one are temporary solutions utilized only as a transitional shelter, not as any sort of long-term housing facility.

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“It’s hell there,” said another migrant in an interview. “The bridge is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.”

In the past, migrants arriving would be turned over to either Immigration or Customs Enforcement, but both agencies now have indicated that they themselves don’t have the space needed to house the growing number of migrants apprehended on a regular basis.

Awareness of this particular encampment grew recently following a press conference held in the area in which Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner Kevin McAleenan spoke to make the case for an unprecedented humanitarian crisis at the border, with a particular emphasis on families and sometimes unaccompanied minors that cross over. Following the press event, images of the detainees, which include men, women, and children, began to spread online and elsewhere.