By Guard Venegas, Carlos Satire, and Suzanne Gamboa EL PASO — On Tuesday, Texas National Guard members stationed themselves and military vehicles on the concrete banks of the Rio Grande and erected concertina wire barriers in an attempt to deter migrants from the United States.
Despite a forecast calling for below-freezing temperatures this week, groups of men, women, and children made it across the river to the United States but were stopped by barbed wire and armed Guard members.
“Service members in El Paso are erecting concertina barriers to deter and turn back migrants,” the Texas Military Department said in an emailed statement to NBC News.
Guard members separated from the migrants by concertina wire told them to leave because they were not crossing at a legal entry point.
More than a dozen military vehicles, as well as Texas state police vehicles, were seen along the border, and Guard members could be heard telling migrants to go to a port of entry. However, under the current border law — Title 42 — migrants cannot apply for asylum at the port of entry.
The administration has been using a pandemic-era law introduced by former President Donald Trump to expedite the deportation of migrants without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum.
A judge ordered the Biden administration to stop using that law by Wednesday and return to using immigration law. However, in response to a challenge by 19 Republican officials, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts put the judge’s order on hold for the time being.
Despite the new barrier, migrants remained on the ground on Tuesday. By late afternoon, small groups had grown to around 200 to 300 people.
The release of hundreds of migrants by Customs and Border Protection in El Paso last week overwhelmed shelters, forcing many to sleep on the streets as temperatures dropped.
With hundreds arriving daily and the fear that more will follow, El Paso declared an emergency and asked the state and federal governments for additional assistance in sheltering and feeding the migrants as well as transporting them to other cities with larger airports and more flights.
The city stated that the Texas Guard would be sent to provide humanitarian and logistical support for processing travel, and that Department of Public Safety officers would assist in keeping migrants and communities safe.
The installation of the concertina barrier was upsetting for U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.
“I saw it for myself,” she said after visiting the area. “There’s Humvees and… long guns. I asked Border Patrol if they had requested this level of assistance from the Texas National Guard, and they said no.”