TUCSON, Ariz. – The largest single group of migrant families and minors ever recorded in the Yuma area tunneled underneath a border fence and voluntarily turned themselves in to federal agents, according to Customs and Border Protection officials in Arizona.
A group of 376 migrants, composed almost overwhelmingly of Guatemalan families and children seeking asylum, breached the U.S.-Mexico border just before noon Monday, approximately 4½ miles east of the San Luis commercial port of entry.
Customs and Border Protection officials disclosed details of the incident Friday, releasing videos and photos showing the migrants walking along the U.S. side of the border fence and waiting in line for agents to process them.
Agent Jose Garibay, spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, said that migrants, with the help of smugglers, dug seven holes in the sandy soil underneath the bollard-style fence and the metal plates welded to the bottom of the barriers.
“The bollards, when they were put in, they didn’t have concrete footers, because it wasn’t designed to stop from digging under, it was designed to stop the vehicle traffic,” Garibay said.
A group of 376 migrants tunneled underneath the border fence near Yuma on Jan. 14 before turning themselves into border agents, officials said. Courtesy of U.S. Border Patrol
The group included 176 minors, Customs and Border Protection said. Thirty of the minors were unaccompanied.
Overall, it is the largest, single group of families and minors ever recorded since the agency began seeing a surge in the arrival of these migrants in the past two years, Garibay said.
One 15-second video that the Border Patrol released Friday shows the large group of migrants walking along the border enforcement road next to the bollard-style fence.
A second, 26-second video taken by helicopters shows the migrants queuing up in line. Some are sitting in the desert sand as a Border Patrol agent processed paperwork.
In all, the process took “several hours,” Garibay said.
Since the group was so large, the Border Patrol had to pull agents from other assignments to help process and transport the migrants using any vehicles at their disposal, including patrol cars, vans and buses that “had to make several trips,” he added.