The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has imposed a no-fly zone for unmanned aircraft systems flying over a south Texas bridge after photos emerged showing thousands of migrants accumulating under it in recent days.
Images captured by The Epoch Times this week showed thousands of illegal immigrants congregating under the Del Rio Bridge in south Texas as they waited to be processed by Border Patrol.
Some 9,000 illegal immigrants, including Haitian, Cuban, and Venezuelan nationals, were in the area, Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez confirmed.
Following the release of the images, the FAA issued a notice on Sept. 16 announcing that temporary flight restrictions were in place preventing all unmanned aircraft, such as drones, from flying over the area until Sept. 30, citing “special security reasons.”
As per the notice, the Department of Defense (DOD), Homeland security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) may take action against anyone who does not comply with the temporary ban, including destruction of unmanned aircraft if it is deemed to post a credible safety or security threat.
The ban prevents local and international media from capturing aerial footage and imagery showing conditions at the site. However, those with official airspace waivers as well as law enforcement and those flying over the area on disaster support missions are exempt.
In a statement to Fox News, the FAA said the no-fly zone ban was imposed at the request of the U.S. Border Patrol but noted that media can make a request for an exemption.
“The Border Patrol requested the temporary flight restriction due to drones interfering with law enforcement flights on the border. As with any temporary flight restriction, media is able to call the FAA to make requests to operate in the area,” the FAA said.
It comes amid a surge of illegal immigrants trying to cross into the United States in recent months, which has left Border Patrol agents overwhelmed and struggling to process the sheer volume of people, particularly those who arrived in the area at the bridge.
“They just can’t process them fast enough, so there’s a backlog of these individuals underneath the bridge. They’re not detained, they’re just gathered there waiting their turn to get processed,” Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez told The Texas Tribune.
On Thursday, when the large volume of immigrants began gathering at the bridge, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to “maintain their presence at and around ports of entry to deter crossings.”
Abbott also took aim at President Joe Biden’s administration in its handling of the crisis, noting that it was in “complete disarray” and was dealing with the border situation “as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,” Abbott said in a statement.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is currently on the ground in Del Rio and has been sharing footage from the site. On Friday, he claimed there are currently 10,503 illegal aliens under the Del Rio International Bridge.
“This manmade disaster was caused by Joe Biden,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that the number of migrants had increased tenfold after the White House recently decided to cancel deportations back to Haiti.
Del Rio is just one of three dozen such crossing points along the Texas-Mexico border. Migrants arriving at these crossings can either claim asylum or take advantage of the return of the “catch-and-release” policy that was all but eliminated by former President Donald Trump’s administration but reinstated by President Biden earlier this year.