EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The El Paso City Council on Monday extended for another 30 days an emergency ordinance allowing municipal employees to assist nonprofits caring for migrants released from federal custody.
And Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city will issue a full migrant state of emergency in anticipation of the May 11 termination of Title 42 expulsions.
“I’ve been talking to (City Attorney Karla) Neiman and Chief (Mario) D’Agostino on the proper time and we will do it prior to May 11 – to declare a state of emergency the main reason being we want to make sure we have the schools prepared and ready to go, the Civic Center ready to go,” Leeser said on Monday. “This will be strictly for temporary housing.”
El Paso officials are bracing for unprecedented numbers of migrants being released on parole in the region once the Trump-era Title 42 public health order expires. The federal rule since March 2020 has allowed border agents to immediately expel on public health grounds ineligible migrants trying to enter the country.
City staff told Leeser on Monday that asylum-seekers won’t be sent back to Mexico after May 11. “Whatever they are doing now is going to end. We anticipate a large number of people coming through as a result of those (public health) orders” ending, Neiman said.
Leeser said an official in Mexico last week reported up to 35,000 asylum seekers staying across the border in Juarez, waiting for the end of Title 42.
“We are going to see, based on all the information we have received, something we haven’t seen in El Paso, whether in 2019 or December (of last year). It’s going to really take a lot of work from our teams to be prepared and I know we’ve been working on it and we will be prepared,” the mayor said.
Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Jorge Rodriguez said the city is working on an eight-point plan to deal with the post-May 11 migrant crisis. It includes daily briefings of other government agencies and community stakeholders to ensure coordination. It also focuses on temporary emergency sheltering and, above all, moving released migrants out of El Paso and onto their preferred destinations as soon as possible.
“Part of our emergency sheltering will be two schools (Bassett and Morehead Middle Schools),” Rodriguez said. “And the transportation piece. We’re working with the county to see how we can augment our transportation and the limited number of flights.”
With 99 percent of asylum-seekers entering through the El Paso sector of the U.S. Border Patrol stating they don’t wish to stay in the region, planning efforts are ongoing to bus them to airports in other cities – such as Houston – when flights out of El Paso are full.
And just like municipal employees help out at nonprofit shelters when they lack volunteers, the idea is that the nonprofits can help out at the empty middle schools once they become operational.
El Paso since last year has spent $11.83 million on migrant services. The federal government has reimbursed the city most of that, has sent advanced funds and is considering requests for further advances.
“We have $14.5 million in the bank, right now,” Rodriguez said.
Leeser further emphasized, “It’s not on the back of local taxpayer.”