Gloria Chavez brings the problem-solving mentality to a new mission in the country’s busiest migrant-smuggling corridor
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Success is about lessons learned, and in the case of Gloria I. Chavez, 2019 was a defining moment. That’s when the newly appointed U.S. Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector Chief Agent was tasked with handling a wave of migrants not seen in years.
News reports at the time documented migrant adults and children crammed into El Paso-area border patrol posts, sleeping on concrete slabs, uncarpeted floors and even outside while waiting. the treatment. Some migrants held in a pen under a bridge near the border with Mexico told reporters they were “treated like animals”.
These are some of the challenges Chavez faced at the start of his tenure here.
“Unaccompanied children, we received a lot and we had no facilities for them. We upgraded a train station to house these kids and, in the end, that wasn’t enough,” Chavez told Border Report. “Children have no place in border patrol posts; families have no place there. These are not adequate facilities for this vulnerable population.
The federal government built the central processing center that Chavez and other border officials urgently demanded. It offered a large, isolated, air-conditioned space where families, unaccompanied children and other populations did not have to mix. It was equipped with technology to check asylum seekers for evidence of previous entries or criminal activity.
Today, faced with an even larger new wave of migrants from Mexico, Central and South America, Chavez has remained in problem-solving mode in partnership with city and county officials, non-profit immigration services and even some long-time Border Patrol critics.
“She came here in difficult times. The Trump administration was implementing extreme measures, including separating families, sleeping migrants under bridges and killing minors in custody. We had a lot of abuse,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights. “She brought a new perspective. She was open to dialogue and sensitive to our concerns. We had a very productive relationship with Chef Chavez.
Chavez met regularly with not only his federal law enforcement partners, but also local officials like County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.
At Samaniego’s request, the county this week committed $6.9 million to lease and hire a contractor to operate a new migrant support services center near El Paso International Airport for at least next year.
Chavez has also been busy on her side. This month, it established a temporary processing center called West Bridge where migrants who illegally crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to the United States just seconds ago are escorted to a screening tent where security guards Border Patrol determine if the migrant falls under Title 8 processing or should be deported under the Title 42 Public Health Order.
Larger groups — and El Paso has seen groups of 200 to 400 people cross the river at once this month — are being taken to mobile processing centers (buses where officers use computers to screen people) and to air-conditioned trailers called Temporary Outdoor Treatment Sites (TOPS).
It’s a process she says buys time, treats migrants humanely and reduces the need for new street releases even as the number of daily arrests in the El Paso area drops from 1,300 per day to 1,500 per day, with some days approaching 2,000 encounters.
“A lot of times we have a bottleneck up front. We identified those challenges and started looking for creative ways to help us be more efficient,” Chavez said. able to separate them into different types of lanes, so we know whether or not they will go to our CPC. [….] we are able to quickly move the migrant to the next stage of their process.
As she prepares to leave El Paso and take over next month as lead agent for the Rio Grande Valley sector — the nation’s busiest migrant crossing — Chavez hopes to apply the tactics that have proven themselves here.
“To be ready for an area like the Rio Grande Valley is going to have to replicate some of the same principles, institute some of the same standards that to me are very important,” Chavez said in an interview with Border Report. “While people are in our custody, we will always treat them with a level of dignity and respect. And the other thing that we will prioritize is that they are safe, that they are in good health. healthy and fed. And while they’re in our care, we’re going to aim for an A-plus every day.
Building coalitions despite historic levels of migration
Migrant encounters are up 47% for the year in West Texas and southern New Mexico, fueled by continued migration by gangs and from impoverished parts of Central America, rural towns besieged by the warring drug cartels in Mexico and political oppression in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The arrival of citizens from the latter country has caused a humanitarian crisis in El Paso because they lack sponsors willing to finance their stay or the network of family and group communities that other migrants traditionally enjoy in large American cities.
Chavez worked closely with El Paso city officials who stepped up to provide bus transportation, meals and emergency hotel stays for Venezuelans released from Border Patrol custody. who could not find places in overcrowded local shelters.
Yet the Border Patrol is first and foremost a law enforcement agency.
“Border security is our number one priority, and we will continue to enforce immigration laws,” Chavez said. “It is a population (at the West Bridge checkpoint) that does not run away from us, it surrenders. In areas like Santa Teresa (New Mexico), it’s very different. Lots of people are going through day and night running from our agents, hiding from our agents. Many of them have criminal records.