McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The South Texas border town of Laredo is experiencing 500 additional migrants per day currently crossing from Mexico and they fear numbers will increase when Title 42 lifts, its mayor told Border Report.
Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said about 1,600 migrants are crossing the border each day right now. The Department of Homeland Security then processes and releases them. But he doesn’t know what the numbers will be like after Wednesday.
A federal judge has ordered Title 42 be lifted by Dec. 21 along the Southwest border. Title 42 is a public health law that since March 2020 has allowed border authorities to immediately expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The two migrant shelters in Laredo can only handle 1,100 people, so Saenz said he fears CBP will release migrants into the streets of Laredo if more than that come over and the shelters can’t increase their capacity.
That’s what is currently happening in El Paso, where 2,600 migrants per day are crossing there from Juarez, Mexico, resulting in hundreds sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures.
A soft-sided U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility that opened in the southeast outskirts of Laredo in 2021 can process 2,200 migrants per day and currently is processing and releasing migrants in batches of 1,100 each, Saenz said.
Saenz said 60% of migrants processed in Laredo are being bused by DHS from other sectors, like El Paso, and Del Rio, Texas. He says only 40% of migrants detained in Laredo actually crossed the Rio Grande from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
But if the numbers exceed what Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Laredo and Holding Institute Community Center — the two migrant shelters — can handle, then Saenz said the city plans to hire charter buses to send the migrants to other cities, like Houston and San Antonio. And he said it hopes to receive federal reimbursements from FEMA to pay for the trips.
This would not be the first time that the City of Laredo has hired charter buses to ship migrants and Saenz said the situation is “frustrating.”
“We’ve been through this before but it is still frustrating. It’s a lack of resources,” Saenz said. “Border Patrol has been asking for resources for two years. We’re hoping this budget cycle they’ll put in for more personnel and equipment.”
DHS issued a memo last week saying CBP currently has 23,000 agents along the Southwest border and has requested funding in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget for an additional 300 Border Patrol agents
The memo says there are 10 soft-sided processing facilities along the border, such as the one in Laredo, “with additional facilities planned.” The agency also says it has “more than doubled” its capacity to transport via flights and buses migrants to less crowded sectors for processing.
In August 2021, the City of Laredo hired charter buses and began sending migrants to Austin and Houston when the number of COVID-19 patients exceeded what the city could handle in a region where they lack a pediatric hospital.
Saenz says he fears that if migrants are released in the streets, they will congregate near the bus station and airport and have little means for transportation or to buy food or necessary goods.
“For their own sake and humanitarian treatment, we’re offering busing. We’ll be offering busing to other NGOs upstate,” he said.
Saenz says he was told by Border Patrol officials that only 10% of migrants being processed in Laredo are claiming asylum. The rest are crossing without the intent for asylum, he said. Crossing for economic gains is not considered a legitimate reason to claim U.S. asylum.
DHS officials said if Title 42 lifts, other means for expulsion of those who do not qualify for asylum will be utilized on the border.
“We will impose consequences on those who cross the border unlawfully by optimizing and
speeding processing of those subject to Expedited Removal (which allows for the quick removal
of those who do not claim fear or otherwise are thought to be eligible for protection), detaining
single adults when appropriate, and referring for prosecution those whose conduct warrants it,” according to the Homeland Security preparedness memo.
Border Report has asked Border Patrol what percentage of migrants crossing into Laredo are claiming asylum. This story will be updated if information is received.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com