EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso County Commissioners have called a special meeting this Thursday to plan a response to the U.S. Border Patrol’s release of more than 1,000 paroled migrants on the streets of El Paso in the past few days.
County officials say local shelters are at or near capacity, so an increasing number of migrants coming into the region are living on the street, enduring extreme weather conditions and lacking basic necessities such as food and shelter. The county is calling the releases a matter of public necessity requiring immediate action.
Border Report earlier this week talked to Venezuelan and Nicaraguan migrants, many with small children in tow, who slept through a rainstorm inside tents in Downtown El Paso.
Since then, hundreds of additional migrants have crossed the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico, into El Paso, and processed under a bridge inside U.S. Customs and Border Protection mobile centers (buses) and either taken to the overcrowded Central Processing Station or released with notices to appear in court. Many of those taken to the CPC are released to nonprofit shelters until they can take no more.
The county is set to discuss the reallocation of financial and other resources to address migrant care in coordination with the City of El Paso and local non-government organizations.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said one option is to relocate the migrant camp from Downtown to El Paso County Coliseum grounds and/or to the nonprofit Rescue Mission.
“We don’t like to see what’s happening under the bridge. It’s really difficult, conditions are not the best. We’re looking for something that’s better than that and one would be a small number – maybe 100 or 200 – across the street from Rescue Mission and then the one that I’m looking at as well is the one in the back of the Coliseum, way in the corner,” Samaniego said on Wednesday.
On Sept. 14, 2002, migrants who just crossed the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas, walk onto buses where they will be processed by U.S. authorities. (KTSM photos)
The county judge said the Coliseum shed option could accommodate up to 500 migrants who would be able to come in and out of the structure during the day. At night, cots would be set up inside for them to sleep.
“All we are looking for now is a relief of maybe two nights, then if we can get them going quick” to their destination, Samaniego said, adding that a backlog is building due to limited out-of-town bus space, so it could take longer.
The county judge called the migrant releases “a manageable crisis” and urged community members to keep things in perspective: for every 300 to 400 that get released onto the streets of El Paso, 10 times that number are catching buses to the destination of their choice at shelters.
“If we weren’t managing it properly, if we were not collaborating with (U.S. Border Patrol), you could have 3,000 people (on the streets) right now,” he said.
Samaniego said he favors taking migrants now on the street to a single location to maintain order and better coordinate their departure. “You don’t want them in different places because when you get a bus, how do you coordinate the bus with them?” he said.
Meantime, U.S. Border Patrol agents are reallocating manpower to a spot a few feet from the Rio Grande where every morning and afternoon for the past week hundreds of people appear to walk a short distance from Juarez neighborhoods, then on to the dry riverbed, up an earthen levee and into a gap on the border wall where they surrender to waiting immigration officers.