El Paso, TX — Border Patrol agents in Texas have their hands full. In a single week, more than 3,000 migrants arrived in El Paso.
Data from U.S. Border Patrol show an average of more than 500 migrants a day are turning themselves in at the border fence in El Paso.
“We are seeing numbers and looking at people that we haven’t seen in quite some time --in decades,” said supervisory Border Patrol agent Joe Romero.
El Paso Border Patrol agents are dealing with a rise in traffic.
Thousands of migrants are fleeing the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where extreme poverty and violence are leading to a mass exodus.
“You have to fight to eat. Day by day, you have to figure out where to get food from, so you can feed your kids, because they’re the ones that matter the most,” one Honduran mother told KFOX14.
She took her 6-year-old daughter on the 1,700 mile journey from Honduras to the U.S.
“The hardest thing is leaving the country, knowing that you have to leave your mom. Struggling along the way with the kids, knowing that they’re cold, hungry and all that,” she said.
In fiscal year 2018, the El Paso sector saw 31,561 apprehensions. So far for 2019, which started in October, they're at 52,000.
U.S. Border Patrol says they're at a 500 percent increase over last year.
In El Paso, Americans are passing water and sandwiches through fences to the hungry travelers.
Churches are opening their doors to help clothe and shelter migrants -- on the way to their next U.S. city. But even churches are finding themselves in need of more helping hands.
"I need you now. I need those of you who have said everybody else can do it, I’m too busy, whatever. I need you to step up and do what you can,” said El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz.
While many of those approaching the border are seeking asylum and a better life, criminals are also crossing. That’s why agents say they must stay alert and vigilant.
“Our priority is not just making sure these people are taken care of, but making sure we are stopping the felons, the sexual predators, the murderers,” said Romero.
In March, authorities arrested this man, Santos Quinilla-Tum, a convicted rapist from Guatemala, traveling with his 17-year-old daughter.
He was convicted of raping a child in Massachusetts in 2005.
After serving 18 months in prison, he was deported to Guatemala in 2009.
“It’s been a constant flow of people,” said Romero
Agents don't expect the traffic to slow down anytime soon.