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Authorities apprehended more than 700 illegal immigrants in El Paso overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Two convicted sex offenders were among those detained. The men had attempted to enter the U.S. with larger groups of immigrants that agents were processing.
“Both sex offenders were arrested in different groups attempting to enter the United States illegally evading Border Patrol agents. Both subjects had been convicted of their sex offenses and had served time in jail before being deported from the United States,” CBP said in a news release Thursday.
An unaccompanied 2-year-old was also found among one of the large groups, according to CBP.
The immigrants, mostly from Central America, had traveled primarily in large groups through Mexico before crossing into the U.S. The influx of crossings continued into Thursday to bring the total to more than 1,000 over a two-day period, KTSM-TV reported.
The recent apprehensions were among the largest number of illegal immigrants taken into custody in El Paso in recent years.
The number of unaccompanied children (those younger than 18 years old) who’ve been taken into federal custody in El Paso has spiked by 296 percent this fiscal year over 2018, according to recently released CBP data.
From October 2017 to February 2018, there were 1,355 unaccompanied minors apprehended. Since October, there have been more than 5,372.
And the number of those captured, while traveling as family units, has exploded by 1,689 percent, according to CBP data.
Agents in El Paso have taken in more than 36,298 traveling as family units since October, up from 2,029 during the same period during the fiscal year 2018.
One of the large groups was reportedly made up of mostly women and children from Brazil, Guatemala, and Honduras to Mexico.
One man said he had traveled with his daughter for days because he wanted to escape poverty in his home country.
“That’s why we’re pursuing this dream to travel to the United States so we can help our families, help my daughter who is here with me so she can go to school,” Andres Martinez told KTSM before he was detained.
But authorities said the immigrants are merely a diversion for drug smugglers.
“They’re using these individuals to try to coordinate movements and try to get our agents to create gaps in the coverage and that way they can try to exploit those gaps for the criminal aliens,” Border Patrol spokesman Joe Romero told the news outlet. “We’re talking about the felons. The wanted individuals, the pedophiles, the rapists, the murderers. They are trying to smuggle them past our agents by inundating them with groups like this.”
According to Romero, the smugglers are the ones who are controlling the movement of the immigrants and where they attempt to cross from Mexico into the U.S.
A smaller group of six was also arrested Wednesday.
A “28-year-old U.S. citizen and self-proclaimed prison gang member, was found to have an outstanding federal warrant for escape. In addition, the subject has a lengthy criminal record. The subject was remanded to the custody to the U.S. Marshals Service. The other five aliens are currently being processed accordingly,” according to the CBP release. “Criminal organizations continue to attempt to distract and occupy Border Patrol agents, however their continued vigilance and experience is stopping these attempts.”