EL PASO — With a government helicopter flying overhead, the U.S. Border Patrol followed through with a scheduled "crowd control" exercise Friday near the Paso Del Norte international bridge. Armored vehicles and agents on horseback were also part of the exercise, held just north of the banks of the Rio Grande and as a caravan of Central American migrants slowly makes its way toward the U.S.
The agency originally scheduled the exercise on Election Day, but canceled it amid criticism over the timing of the exercise and what a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said was “inaccurate reporting” about the event. Critics had said the event was being staged for political purposes.
Friday's exercise was closed to the press and public, but residents of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez were still able to see some of the activity. In addition to the Border Patrol exercise, the international bridge that connects the two cities was closed as CBP officers conducted their own “operational readiness exercise” in preparation for the caravan’s arrival. A CBP spokesperson said that agency’s drill was separate from the Border Patrol exercise. It’s unclear if more drills will follow Friday’s events. News reports on Friday said that the caravan was now headed toward Tijuana, which borders California.