El Paso took too long to respond to migrant crisis: critics

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El Paso, Texas — When a group of up to 30 migrants from across the southern border with Mexico began showing up here through a sewer manhole, local authorities moved quickly. They welded a heavy iron cover shut.

I wish the larger solution to El Paso’s immigration crisis was this simple.

Officials in the frontier city have been slow to respond in the face of a months-long tsunami of asylum seekers that has flooded the town at a rate of up to 900 a day since August, according to municipal statistics.

In the 268-mile stretch of the border known as the El Paso Sector earlier this month, U.S. Border Patrol agents “encountered” more than 2,400 migrants per day, according to figures released by the city, up from October figures. outperformed by 40%.

Democratic Mayor Oscar Reeser, who was certain desperate visitors would stay in El Paso for just 48 hours before busing to other parts of the country, including the Big Apple, should have declared a state of emergency. He dismissed the criticism that

Migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border await transportation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.
James Keybomb

“The immigrants we welcome are not a threat to our community,” Lesser said in a September statement. “They are seeking political asylum, which is recognized by U.S. law. They will stay in our community for 24 to 48 hours and help him reach his destination if he does not already have a sponsor. ”

The state of emergency allows the city to take over buildings, provide housing for immigrants, and seek emergency funding from state and federal governments.

Instead, migrants are flooding this community of over 670,000 people, sleeping on the streets and knocking randomly on their doors for help.

“The city has been talking about opening more shelters for weeks,” said one resident after seeing a group of migrants clutching white Red Cross-issued blankets as they settled on a sidewalk downtown. said. “What took so long?”

Immigrants gather outside the Sacred Heart Church accommodation in El Paso.
Immigrants gather outside the Sacred Heart Church accommodation in El Paso.
James Keybomb

The overwhelming surge in immigration has been spurred by the scheduled end of Title 42 on December 21st. A controversial Trump-era public health order allows Border Patrol agents to return immigrants to Mexico without granting asylum applications.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Title 42 to remain in place after several Republican-led states sued the federal government, and although the measure is now set to expire after Christmas, federal and local Both law enforcement agencies said they believe the post will be in place in time for the spring.

Lieser finally declared a state of emergency on December 17th. This was days after immigrants started rushing out of the sewers, and shortly after a thunderous press conference in which he walked away with the microphone after being criticized by city councilors for being a drag on the decision.

“They were just like clowns coming out of a circus car,” an El Paso police officer said as he emerged from a manhole cover on the corner of St. Vrain Street and Father Rahm Avenue downtown earlier this month. I saw a group of immigrants.

As nighttime temperatures soared to just over 20 degrees this week, The Post saw hundreds of migrants scrambling to find a spot at the Church of the Sacred Heart downtown. The Jesuit Diocese opens its gymnasium to immigrants at 6:00 pm each day, providing hot meals and a place to sleep at night.

A Venezuelan immigrant serves himself a plate of pasta at a makeshift camp in Matamoros, Mexico.
A Venezuelan immigrant serves himself a plate of pasta at a makeshift camp in Matamoros, Mexico.

Those who can’t find space in the church’s gymnasium are forced to sleep on the streets in outdoor bazaars piled with old clothes, toys and water bottles to help groups, while locals are encouraged to visit the church and the nearby bus station. stop in front of .

Staff at the Sacred Heart have been overwhelmed, making emergency calls for more volunteers this week and planning to send immigrant buses to sister parishes in St. Louis and Kansas City in the new year, according to their Facebook page. .

Migrants are reportedly also showing up at the doors of suburban homes in search of shelter and food.

“It’s crazy,” said volunteer Miguel Chacón, who was handing out hoodies, jeans and backpacks from a pickup truck in front of a bus stop Monday night. ”

Asylum seekers cross the Rio Grande on air mattresses in Brownsville, Texas.
Asylum seekers cross the Rio Grande on air mattresses in Brownsville, Texas.
AFP via Getty Images

Chacon, a real estate developer who immigrated to the United States illegally from Mexico in 1996 as a teenager, says he’s doing his part to help immigrants living on the streets.

“Things are only going to get worse for the city because people who sneak across the border and aren’t being processed by Border Patrol can’t move freely.” There will be great danger.”

Home to an international airport and located just off a major cross-country highway system, El Paso is the gateway to the United States for immigrants from the South, said Jose Sanchez, regional director of West Texas for the Department of Public Safety, a law enforcement agency. said Mr. It arrived on Tuesday working with border guards and 500 national guards to secure the border.

“There are often no other border crossings anywhere,” Sanchez said, increasing the shift of the 100 DPS officers assigned to the crisis, primarily to arrest smugglers and to keep smugglers out of town by the hundreds. They raided caches housing immigrants.

“It’s safer and much easier for migrants to go through [Ciudad] “We go from Juarez to El Paso because both are major municipalities and there are a lot more places to hide and come across,” he told the Post. It’s the reason I’m here.”

Clothing left by asylum-seeking immigrants in the United States hangs from razor wire on the border fence in Rio Bravo.
Clothing left by asylum-seeking immigrants in the United States hangs from razor wire on the border fence in Rio Bravo.

“We’re overwhelmed. ‘It’s like fighting Slinky from the air all day, all night.'”

Days after the state of emergency was declared, city officials converted part of El Paso’s downtown convention center into a temporary shelter with 1,000 cots for immigrants. Surrounded by trendy eateries and luxury hotels, the shelter also features a dining area, internet access and security. City officials say the 100,000-square-foot facility could provide more space for temporary shelters if needed.

Additionally, the city worked with the El Paso Independent School District to convert two empty schools into shelters.

A spokeswoman for the city of El Paso did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

But one local entrepreneur put the blame for the city’s struggles squarely on the White House.

“The Biden administration has no plans,” John Barrera, CEO of the economic development nonprofit Borderplex Alliance, told The Post. “Their efforts are unsympathetic, unhumane and burdensome to local governments and taxpayers in our region. We need to develop more humane and thoughtful plans for migrants who are experiencing extraordinary difficulties crossing the border on the pretext that they are allowed to stay, 90% of them at immigration. It means that I can’t make my point in front of the government.”

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