Biden administration to reopen four ports of entry at southern border

The Biden administration this week will reopen four ports of entry at the southern border that had been closed because of a record influx of migrants, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

The four ports of entry that will be operational again Thursday are in Eagle Pass, Texas; San Ysidro, California; Lukeville, Arizona; and Nogales, Arizona.

They were closed for much of December as U.S. Customs and Border Protection shifted resources to respond to the influx of migrants traveling to the U.S. The planned reopenings come after a record-setting month in which Customs and Border Protection agents encountered more than 300,000 migrants at the southern border.

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Migrants wait to be processed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Oct. 19, 2023.Eric Gay / AP file

On Monday, CBP encountered fewer than 500 migrants in the Del Rio sector of Texas, which includes Eagle Pass. A senior administration official called the number a “significant improvement over where we have been in recent weeks.”

“While it is important to note, as well, that this is the time of year when we normally expect to see encounters decrease over the holiday period, it’s also important to note that the closing of ports of entry is something we do as a last resort,” the senior administration official said. “It’s something that we do not take lightly.”

The drop was attributed in part to increased enforcement by Mexico, though no specifics were provided.

“We are encouraged that we have seen some increased enforcement in Mexico and a decrease in our encounters in recent days,” the official said.

The Biden administration has spoken with Mexican train companies and the Mexican government after it saw upward of a thousand migrants riding on top of commercial trains in Mexico.

“We anticipate the encounter numbers at the border will continue to fluctuate,” a senior administration official said.

Administration officials also acknowledged reports of a migrant caravan that appears to be heading to the U.S. border, with one noting that recent reports indicated that the caravan has “not moved in several days” from a city in southern Mexico.

“We’re encouraged to see that it isn’t moving and seems to be reducing significantly in size,” the official said.

Administration officials did not provide any update on the Senate border funding talks on Capitol Hill, but one official said that negotiations continued over the holiday break and that they were “encouraged by the progress being made.”

Three lead Senate negotiators met Tuesday to renew in-person border discussions for the first time since they left for the holidays. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.; and James Lankford, R-Okla., met with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for nearly two hours.

Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., issued a joint statement about the crossings reopening in their state, saying they were “relieved.”

“Following our calls, we’re relieved that the Lukeville Port of Entry and Morley Gate are reopening — but in Arizona, we continue to experience the devastating effects of this unacceptable closure and our broken border system,” the senators said.

President Joe Biden’s proposed $106 billion funding package would provide aid for Ukraine and Israel, as well as funding for U.S. border operations; however, it is stuck in Congress as Republicans say they will not approve the funding without implementing tougher immigration and border policies.

Biden addressed the issues at the southern border as he departed Marine One on the White House lawn Tuesday night.

“We got to do something,” he said in response to a question from a reporter. “They ought to give me the money I need to protect the border.”