Alan Bersin, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol commissioner, will be headed to Big Bend National Park on Thursday for an announcement that might please residents of the remote border area. Bersin is set to meet with National Park Services staff to discuss the opening of a border crossing in Boquillas Canyon.
Marfa Sector Border Patrol spokesman Bill Brooks says there won't be an official international bridge at the crossing anytime soon, though. Part of the discussion that will take place Thursday, Brooks says, will be determining how to get people with the proper legal documents from one side of the border to the other. For now, Brooks says, the crossing will only be used by park staff and other officials working on the project. The general public will have access to the crossing at an as-yet-undetermined future date. "The actual public opening is a ways off," Brooks says.
In 2002, locals were miffed when Border Patrol shut down three unofficial river crossings, called Class B ports of entry: one at Boquillas Canyon on the east end of Big Bend National Park, one at Santa Elena Canyon on the west side of the park and one at Lajitas about 15 miles further west. Locals on both sides of the border used the crossings to get to work and trade goods. And park visitors used the crossings to take day trips into the small Mexican villages across the Rio Grande. Now, the closest international crossing is about 60 miles away in Presidio.
The crossing announcement comes as violence continues unabated in Mexico. But Brooks says concerns about the bloody drug war aren't a factor for the crossing, which is something the Park Service has requested for years. "We don't think it's going to be anymore troublesome to us," he says.