US Border Patrol facilities are nearly 3,000 people over capacity across the southern border as of Tuesday morning, according to a Department of Homeland Security official.
The agency has capacity to hold and process around 9,000 people, but as of Tuesday there were more than 12,000 migrants in Border Patrol custody across the US border with Mexico.
The biggest overcrowding issues are in the El Paso region, where Border Patrol does not have the facilities to handle the numbers of migrants arriving at the border. In the sector, which covers the entire state of New Mexico and the two western most counties in Texas, facilities are over 400% capacity, said the official.
“Optimally” it takes an hour and a half to process each person that comes into Border Patrol custody, but that can skew higher as well, added the official.
When CNN went inside Border Patrol’s Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, earlier this month, it was nearly 50% over capacity.
The converted warehouse in the Rio Grande Valley, one of the largest migrant processing facilities in the country, was designed in the wake of the 2014 unaccompanied minor crisis to hold 1,500 people. When CNN was there it was crammed with 2,200 migrants detained at the border. That’s nearly double the number who were there last summer.
CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, who was scheduled to testify at the House Appropriations Committee about his agency’s budget on Wednesday, will instead be holding a press conference in El Paso.
Earlier this month, McAleenan said the US is facing a border security and humanitarian crisis, and said its “system is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point.”
At the time, CBP officials said that more than 76,000 people were apprehended crossing illegally or declared inadmissible in February, the highest number of “encounters” in any February in the last 12 years. That number includes more than 40,000 family members and more than 7,000 unaccompanied children.
The number of migrants arriving at the border has grown since the commissioner made those remarks, according to DHS data.
Last week Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, began releasing people directly from its custody with a notice to appear in court – something that had not been done since 1998, according to a DHS official.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has also been releasing migrant families from its custody due to capacity issues and lack of authority to hold people for an extended period of time.