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Border authorities in El Paso fend off large groups of migrants after unruly standoff

Much of the boundary along the southern end of El Paso was back to normal Sunday night, Customs and Border Protection officials said.

Officials said an El Paso, Texas, bridge where federal agents clashed with large groups of migrants trying to breach the border was safe and flowing freely Sunday night.

Large groups of angry migrants who tried to cross into the U.S. on the Paso del Norte bridge were met by traffic barriers, concertina wire and agents in riot gear, video of the confrontations showed.

The afternoon clashes prompted officials to close northbound lanes of the bridge, U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Roger Maier said in a statement.

"Port hardening measures" on the bridge began about 1:30 p.m., he said.

"A large group of individuals formed on the Mexican side of the border and approached the international boundary posing a potential threat to make a mass entry," Maier said.

Similar attempts to breach the border also took place at two other land ports in the region, the Bridge of the Americas and the Stanton crossing, prompting authorities to erect temporary barriers at those locations Sunday afternoon, too, CBP said.

Hundreds of migrants rush the border checkpoint in Mexico
Migrants clash with authorities at the US border in El Paso on March 12, 2023.Christian Torres / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Video captured moments when angry migrants yelled and flailed at CBP officers dressed in riot gear, concertina wire separating the two sides.

President Joe Biden is expected Monday to travel to the country's largest city along the U.S.-Mexico border, San Diego, to meet with the prime ministers of the U.K. and Australia. No trips to the barrier were scheduled.

Two sources familiar with Biden administration border planning said last week that a controversial policy from the Trump administration was under consideration to help dissuade migrants from overwhelming ports and enforcement efforts.

The Trump administration's "family detention" policy, holding migrants and their children when they're apprehended at the border, was rejected by the Biden administration shortly after Biden took office.

Amid hammering over border security by Republicans and the conclusion in May of a pandemic-era loophole that allows officials to turn away asylum-seekers, Biden has been seeking novel ways to control northward migration.

El Paso officials, declaring that their city was experiencing a migrant crisis that started in April, have said a majority of migrants at the regional crossings are from Venezuela.

The Venezuelans are fleeing high costs of living, high unemployment and political upheaval, experts have said.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, the ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, criticized the migrants for the unruly display Sunday.

"I know that they’re tired of waiting and all that," he told NBC affiliate KTSM of El Paso, "but this type of thing just doesn’t help their case."