In the eleventh hour, U.S. Border Patrol stopped a controversial plan to fly hundreds of detained immigrants from Texas to California.
Border Patrol union representative Gabe Pacheco said he believes the change was made because of mounting public pressure.
The initial plan, which drew heavy criticism, was to fly two planes with 140 passengers each to San Diego and El Centro starting Monday. The flights were in response to a surge of Central Americans entering Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where Border Patrol has made more than 174,000 arrests since October 1.
Border Patrol agents say their hands are full as 50,000 unaccompanied children have inundated the U.S.-Mexico border. So far this year, the San Diego sector has apprehended more than 700 unaccompanied kids.
Pacheco said the controversy over the plan has called attention to how overwhelmed Border Patrol agents are.
“What's going to happen is you're going to have these holes and these gaps where the agents aren't enforcing,” he said. “What's going to happen is you're going to have people taking advantage of those gaps.”
Agents worry that with their hands tied attending to these families, guns, drugs and communicable diseases may also enter the country.
“We cannot handle hundreds of people of with active TB coming across. The amount of manpower that would take to draw off the border enforcement to just watch these people that are in custody and the amount of money the public is paying for those facilities,” Pacheco said.
San Diego-based non-profit Border Angels said the problem is so devastating it is launching a campaign to collect food, clothing and donations to help.
“It's a sad situation because a society is judged on how we treat our children,” said Enrique Morones with Border Angels. “When we are out there putting water in the desert and working with the migrant community, we find something like this, this little shoe, this little toy. It just breaks my heart. These are children, and their parents just want them to have a better life.”
Border Patrol is canceling the plan for now, but the agency did not say it couldn't sill happen in the future.