Fencing barriers installed at Progreso port

  • 4 hrs ago

A crew works to solder fencing at the Progreso-Nuevo Progreso International Bridge Tuesday morning.

PROGRESO — As a contractor worked on soldering a fence in place on the pedestrian bridge in Progreso, a group of about six people waited to make their way into Mexico.

They pulled their phones out and started taking pictures of the worker as he used his blow torch to melt the chain-link gate onto its foundation.

The gate, which measures about 8 feet by 11 feet, appears to be one of several expected to be erected along the bridge — apparently in anticipation of a caravan of Central American immigrants making their way through Mexico and to the U.S.-Mexico border.

It is not clear if the gate seen Tuesday would be the only one placed on the bridge that overlooks the Rio Grande.

The building of extra barriers around the ports of entry comes on the heels of the announcement from the Trump administration that more than 5,000 military personnel will be deployed along the southwest border to act as support for CBP officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents who protect the nation’s borders.

At a joint press conference Monday, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, announced an additional 5,200 troops would be accompanying the already more than 2,000 National Guard positioned on the U.S.-Mexico border, saying border security is national security.

“We will not allow a large group to enter the U.S. in an unlawful and unsafe manner,” McAleenan said Monday during the news conference.

“We will not allow a large group to enter the U.S. in an unlawful and unsafe manner." — CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan

Reached for comment and for details about the installation of the chain-link fences, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials responded in an email late Tuesday afternoon by referring questions about the fence to the “Progreso Bridge Co.”

A message left for Progreso International Bridge Director Julie Ramirez was not returned as of press time.

The email from CBP goes on to quote McAleenan from the aforementioned news conference.

Even before the announcement, troops could be seen arriving in Brownsville at the Gateway International Bridge, while CBP officers wearing full riot gear conducted mock crowd control exercises in plain view.

All this for a caravan that has dwindled down from more than 5,000 people to — by McAleenan’s estimate — just around 3,500, some of whom will likely seek asylum in Mexico while others may return home. It’s uncertain how many will ultimately reach the U.S.-Mexico border and where exactly they will end up.

McAleenan made no specific mention of additional barriers at ports of entry, but said Department of Defense personnel would be helping with logistics as it pertains to border security.

“...CBP has requested that DOD provide support in several key areas, significant air and ground transportation and logistics support to move CBP personnel and equipment to locations of operational focus, engineering capabilities and equipment to help ensure our ability to secure our legal crossings in key areas of the border, medical support units, mobile housing for sustaining CBP deployed personnel and extensive planning support,” he said.

Officials said where the military troops would be positioned along the southwest border would be determined through collaboration between DOD personnel and CBP officials, who are continuing to track the caravan’s position.

U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen, criticized the president, saying the announcement and continued rhetoric aimed at the caravan as a “political ploy” to rile up his base of supporters a week before the midterm elections.


Just after 10 a.m. Tuesday, Winter Texans and other Rio Grande Valley residents walked by the chain-link fence just 20 yards from where they pay their 50 cent toll to walk across the bridge into Mexico.

One elderly woman, who declined to give her name, said she wished the gate went “all the way to the ceiling,” while another man, who also declined to provide a name, said the fence’s construction was “necessary.”

Another woman, Michelle Treviño, 32, of Brownsville, said she was glad the fence was going up, and despite not knowing much about the caravan and the people who made up the contingency, said such measures would keep “criminals” out of the U.S.

“Well when they come over here, what do you think they do,” she asked.

Treviño, who was with a relative, said she doesn’t care what they have to do but is not opposed to more barriers being erected to prohibit criminals from entering the country.

She said undocumented immigrants were responsible for stealing her pickup truck in Brownsville just last weekend.

What the fences’ construction around the port might mean for casual shoppers remains to be seen.

But at least on this day, shoppers headed into Mexico seemed more inclined to take a picture next to the fence than ask any questions.