SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico (KVIA)— Ahead of the annual Good Friday pilgrimage to Mt. Cristo Rey, migrant encounters continue to increase in the area.
Ruben Escandon, Jr., a spokesperson for the Mt. Cristo Rey Restoration Committee, told ABC-7 he has seen an increase in migrant activity near the monument.
"I think we have seen an increase in the number of crossings, and I mean it is evident with all the people and all the chases going on with the smugglers," he said.
Escandon said the committee is in charge of maintaining the monument and cleaning up the trails year-round.
The spokesperson said in recent years the area has become a hotspot again for migrant crossings.
"We expect them to come over. The migrants may try and come over and blend in with the people that are there with the monuments and praying," he said.
He said during their cleanups, they frequently find discarded clothing items throughout the trails.
Escandon said during the annual hikes migrants try to blend in with visitors. He also said many times the migrants change clothes before they come down the mountain.
"These past few weeks that we have been up there for cleanup, we have seen the clothes in trash bags that people discard so they are not recognized once they come down," he said.
He said most people decide not to hike the mountain because of fear.
Escandon said during the pilgrimage on Good Friday there are Border Patrol agents nearby and security guards.
He advises everyone to hike at their own risk.