By Robert Gearty, Samuel Chamberlain
Published July 22, 2019
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents had to use tear gas and pepper spray early Saturday to stop nearly 50 “undocumented individuals” from illegally entering the U.S. after they stormed a port of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, officials said.
The incident at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge took place at around 4 a.m. The bridge is closed between midnight at 6 a.m., but CBP has had to construct temporary barriers in the middle of the span due to the large influx of migrants using the bridge at night.
A CBP official told Fox News the group attempted to rush across the bridge in three waves.
"Ignoring commands to stop, the group suddenly rushed the temporary barricades, bent metal poles and disabled the concertina wire affixed to the barrier,” the official said.
CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, Pharr police and members of the Texas Department of Public Safety were called upon to prevent the group’s entry, according to the official.
“Several males in the group disregarded commands to stop and physically pushed through the barriers,” the official said. “When confronted by CBP officers, the combative individuals began assaulting the officers by punching, kicking, and attempting to grab the officers’ protective devices.”
Two individuals were charged with interference and federal charges are pending against 14 others who were apprehended, the official said, adding that Mexican officials removed the remaining individuals from the bridge.
The bridge opened to commercial traffic at 8 a.m. after a two-hour delay.
The Trump administration has mandated that asylum seekers remain in Mexico while their cases are heard in an effort to slow the flow of mostly Central American migrants to the southern border. The White House also said this week it was banning migrants from seeking U.S. protections if they pass through another country first, though that rule has been challenged in court.
Those policies and others that make it hard to seek asylum have led some migrants to cross the border illegally out of desperation, the Associated Press reported.
The Mexican government announced plans this week to spend millions of dollars to improve migrant shelters and detention centers that house families, but in southern Mexico, far from the U.S. border.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.