BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) – A massive group of about 1,000 migrants tried to cross from Matamoros, Mexico, into Brownsville, Texas, overnight, prompting U.S. border officials to close the Gateway International Bridge for several hours, police told Border Report.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials erected barricades on the popular pedestrian and vehicular port of entry, preventing anyone from crossing from about 11 p.m. Wednesday to 3 a.m. Thursday, Brownsville police investigator Martin Sandoval said.
“Individuals were trying to cross. Barricades were set up. It was pretty much peaceful. Nobody got hurt,” Sandoval said. “They were trying to cross in the lanes where the vehicles go through and it was just a mass of people.”
Sandoval says CBP officers responded quickly along with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, federal police, Cameron County Sheriff’s deputies, and Brownsville Police Department.
He believes the group was asylum-seekers who have been living in the various makeshift encampments that have sprung up throughout the border city of Matamoros where immigrants are living in parks, on concrete slabs and in abandoned gas station lots waiting to try to cross the border when Title 42 lifts next month.
“They were saying they’ve been there for a while. Some were coming from Guatemala, Honduras. They were from very different places,” said Sandoval, who livestreamed the bridge closures for several hours overnight on Facebook.
Similar massive crossing attempts by migrants also have occurred recently in Juarez and El Paso, Texas; and Tijuana and San Diego.
Mario Ramirez, 20, is a student at Texas Southmost College who has homes in Matamoros and Brownsville. He told Border Report he was stranded trying to cross back to the United States around 9 p.m. at the Gateway International Bridge when hundreds of migrants began walking on the bridge.
“All the migrants were trying to cross and they were all running,” Ramirez said.
He said the pedestrian lanes were closed at that time.
Sandoval says the entire bridge was eventually closed to all traffic in both directions.
“They were taking all the people back to Matamoros who were trying to cross the bridge,” Ramirez said. “Now I’m late to school.”
He finally crossed around 10:30 a.m. CDT on Thursday, but said he worries the bridge could be closed again after he gets off work.
Another woman, who wished not to be identified, told Border Report she lives in Matamoros and dislikes the thousands of makeshift tents and encampments that are throughout the city.
Andrea Rudnik, a volunteer with Team Brownsville, told Border Report there are about 1,500 migrants in what is called the “main encampment” a few blocks from the Gateway International Bridge. Several other smaller camps have also sprung up throughout the city.
Rudnik said earlier this week officials were trying to move a group of about 50 Haitians who were living on a concrete gas station parking lot after the owner of the property complained that he wanted to renovate it. He also told migrant advocates that gas lines are still underneath the parking lot and he worries that all the fires the migrants are lighting to cook could cause the gas lines to erupt.
Around 11 a.m. Thursday, another nearby bridge, the Brownsville-Matamoros International Bridge – also called the BM Bridge – was briefly shut down for 10 minutes as helicopters flew overhead between both bridge structures. An officer told Border Report the bridge had been closed but reopened.
A CBP official said officers can deploy what is called “hardening measures” to quickly close ports, and they often practice maneuvers.
The spokesperson said the hardening measures were used overnight and he confirmed that by 1:15 a.m. “a majority of the protestors had dispersed.”