(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden visited some of the facilities in El Paso during his first trip to the U.S.-Mexico border Sunday, but some border security officials say the sweeps that occurred prior to his arrival prevented him from seeing the magnitude of the problem.
“If you continue cleaning it up, continue the dog and pony show, we’re not going to get nowhere in this administration,” said Art Del Cueto, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council — a labor union that represents Border Patrol agents.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) handed Biden a letter Sunday that voiced similar concerns and claimed that downtown El Paso had “been sanitized of the migrant camps” in an attempt to “shield” the president from the chaos.
City officials told NewsNation that federal agents had swept some areas with migrants but emphasized that those were not carried out by local authorities.
“We’re not responsible for federal issues, so we did not clear the streets with the migrants, we’ve simply been cleaning the streets,” El Paso City Manager Tommy Gonzalez told “NewsNation Prime” on Sunday.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokesperson told NewsNation that patrols in the El Paso area had increased before Biden announced his visit.
On Monday, a group of senators led by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Kirsten Sinema, D-Ariz., toured the city’s temporary Emergency Operations Facility which is located in a recently closed middle school.
TX: Hundreds of undocumented individuals who aren’t self-surrendering to agents—Still on the streets in El Paso. They’re not processed or given release papers so they aren’t allowed to enter shelters/facilities.
BP says they’re responding/picking people up but they keep coming. pic.twitter.com/Q5DyW1pkxf
— Ali Bradley (@AliBradleyTV) January 9, 2023
El Paso dealt with a migrant surge that saw upwards of 2,500 apprehensions per day late last year and declared a state of emergency in December.
As of Dec. 5, CBP officials in the El Paso sector have logged more than 106,000 migrant encounters since the 2023 fiscal year began in October — a 260% increase compared to the same time period last year when 30,000 migrants were encountered in the region, according to CBP data.
Sources within the Department of Homeland Security tell NewsNation that number has grown to 168,000 encounters as of Monday.
Local data suggests the situation has somewhat improved in recent weeks. Currently, there’s an average of 800 apprehensions a day, according to the city’s migrant dashboard.
The city’s processing center is now only at 25% capacity.
Border Patrol agents attributed the slowdown to the arrival of 600 National Guard troops, cold weather, the holiday season and the extension of Title 42, according to Border Report.
Gonzalez said he would’ve liked to see the president visit when the migrant numbers were at their peak so Biden could better understand the scale of the crisis.
Meanwhile, video taken by NewsNation on Monday showed hundreds of migrants remained on the streets of El Paso.
Nearly 2.4 million migrants were encountered across the entire southern border from Sept. 2021 to Sept. 2022.
Biden touched down in Mexico Monday ahead of a meeting with President Andres Manuel López Obrador and Canadian President Justin Trudeau. The leaders are expected to discuss the growing migration crisis and the deadly amount of fentanyl flowing across the southern border.