Texas Border Cities are planning a cold, busy ending for Title 42
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Texas border towns braced for a surge of up to 5,000 new migrants a day across the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday as pandemic-era immigration restrictions expire this week, setting plans for the provision of emergency shelter in gear , food and other essentials.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego told The Associated Press the region, which is home to one of the busiest border crossings in the country, is coordinating housing and resettlement efforts with NGOs and other cities, and is appealing to the state and federal governments humanitarian aid as they prepare for an onslaught of new arrivals once Title 42 of the public health rule ends on Wednesday.
The rule has been used to stop more than 2.5 million migrants from crossing since March 2020.
Temperatures in the region were expected to fall below freezing this week and people wrapped in Red Cross blankets were seen near the airport on Sunday.
On Saturday, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser issued a declaration of emergency, giving the Texas border town access to additional local and state resources to build emergency shelters and other much-needed assistance.
Samaniego said the order came a day after El Paso officials sent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a letter asking for humanitarian assistance to the area, adding that the request for resources to care for and relocate the newly arriving migrants, not additional security forces.
Samaniego said he has not received a response to the request and plans to issue a similar statewide emergency statement detailing the type of assistance the area will need if the city does not receive government aid soon.
The city of El Paso announced Wednesday that it had received a new $6 million pledge from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Samaniego said the area still lacks millions of dollars it needs to make accommodate the newcomers and provide them with food and help. He called on the state and federal government to provide the additional money.
“The strategy is in place, we know how to do it, all we need are the resources,” said Samaniego. “We don’t need anyone to dictate how it’s done or how it’s done. We are one of the safest cities in the country. … We’re not asking for a direction, we’re asking for resources.”
Samaniego said city and county officials have been working closely with NGOs to provide temporary housing and sponsorship for migrants while they are being treated, as well as to help relocate them to larger cities where they can be flown or bused to their final destinations.
City and county officials will join forces with NGOs at a centralized emergency command center starting Wednesday, Samaniego said. Similar command centers were previously set up to respond to COVID-19 and in the aftermath of the deadly 2019 Walmart shooting in El Paso.
Officials from the city of Abbott and El Paso did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.
Abbott has committed billions of dollars to “Operation Lone Star,” an unprecedented border security effort that includes bus transportation of migrants to so-called safe haven cities like New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, and a massive presence of state troops and National Guards on the Texas-Texas border Mexico.
Additionally, the Republican governor of Texas has spurred efforts to build former President Donald Trump’s wall, using mostly private land along the Texas-Mexico border and raising funds to pay for it.
As recently as March, El Paso was the fifth busiest of the Border Patrol’s nine sectors along the Mexican border, and in October it suddenly became by far the most popular, overtaking Del Rio, Texas, which had itself replaced Texas’ Rio Grande Valley as the busiest corridor late last year lightning fast.
The recent surge in El Paso — initially mostly by Venezuelans and more recently by Nicaraguans — was reminiscent of a brief period in 2019 when the westernmost reaches of Texas and the eastern end of New Mexico were quickly inundated with newcomers from Cuba and Central America. For years, El Paso was a relatively sleepy area for illegal crossings.
It’s unclear why El Paso became such a powerful magnet in September. Nicolas Palazzo, an attorney at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, suspects that smugglers calculated it was a good place to conduct operations, reflecting a widely held view. Border police, with limited ability to temporarily relocate agents, are struggling to keep up.
Coronado reported from Austin, Texas.