PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. - U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said on Monday it's seeing "increased levels of migrant encounters at the Southwest Border, fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals and encourage migration."
In a news release on Nov. 27, CBP said it was temporarily suspending vehicle processing at Eagle Pass International Bridge 1 in Texas, and it will reduce vehicle processing in Lukeville, Arizona.
The closures are in an effort to redirect personnel to the border to take migrants into custody.
"In response to this influx in encounters, we will continue to surge all available resources to expeditiously and safely process migrants. We will maximize consequences against those without a legal basis to remain in the United States. CBP will continue to prioritize our border security mission as necessary in response to this evolving situation," CBP said.
Lukeville lies in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, which was the busiest of nine along the U.S.-Mexico border by far in October.
One man says it took him three weeks to get to the Lukeville crossing, and a good portion of that trip was by foot. He is seeking political asylum with his wife.
"We have it very, very, very difficult in Guinea. Poverty. Persecution. Torture. My life is in danger. They made a fire in my shop," the migrant said.
People coming back from Mexico through the Lukeville port of entry are now seeing two-hour wait times.
"This trip took me 15 days. This trip was tough, but we managed," a migrant said.
The migrants our FOX 10 crew spoke with on Nov. 27 in the Tucson sector traveled from India, Senegal and Guinea.
"There is a war in our country. We are not safe there. That’s why we decided to come here," one of the people crossing the border said.
The CBP numbers coming through the Tucson sector aren’t in for November yet, but they are overwhelming the 3,700 border patrol agents who monitor one of the busiest sectors for illegal immigration in the country.
John Modlin, the sector chief, said on Sunday that all sector social media accounts would be temporarily reduced in response to "the ongoing migration surge."
"At this time, all available personnel are needed to address the unprecedented flow," Modlin wrote on X, the platform formerly called Twitter. "The social media team will return once the situation permits."
A slipper made of carpet fabric, used to wrap migrants shoes to hide foot tracks, lays next to the border fence outside Lukeville, Arizona, on February 16, 2017, on the US/Mexico border. - Attention Editors: This image is part of an ongoing AFP photo
He returned a short time later to apologize for the "hastily written statement" and pledged transparency.
Staffing cuts to legal trade and travel are the latest response to demands for processing people who cross the border illegally, often to seek asylum. A major pedestrian crossing in San Diego was closed for weeks starting in September as authorities turned more attention to people who entered the country without permission.
While arrests for illegal crossings fell in October, September was the second-highest month on record.
A spokesperson for CBP didn’t give an exact time frame for how long this personnel shift will continue, but says until they see the numbers start to decrease to a more manageable level for border patrol agents, they'll continue these efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.