EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Congresswoman Veronica Escobar held a conference discussing U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas’ visit to El Paso.
Escobar said at the beginning of the conference that the two main topics discussed during Mayorkas visit were the situation with migrants crossing, specifically unaccompanied children, as well as COVID-19.
Mayorkas was not present as the conference, but Escobar was joined by Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security Bennie G. Thompson, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, El Paso County Judge Ricardo A. Samaniego, Fire Chief and Managing Director for Public Safety Mario D’Agostino, and immigration advocates.
When Escobar was asked what solutions were discussed with Mayorkas about the situation regarding unaccompanied minors, Escobar said it was mainly a listening session as Mayorkas listened to immigrant advocates.
“What I can share is the administration is shrinking the amount of time that the kids are in shelters,” Escobar said.
Ruben Garcia with Annunciation House said he spoke with Mayorkas about the issues with Title 42 and flying migrants from South Texas to El Paso and them having them expelled to Mexico.
“Gave me the opportunity to emphasize how opposed we are to the bilateral transfer of refugee families that come in through South Texas are put in planes transported to El Paso and then because of Title 42 a very high percentage are then expelled to Juarez,” said Garcia.
Title 42 is a CDC order that allows for the restriction on non-essential travel at the border due to COVID-19 and makes it so that migrants can be expelled from the country due to COVID-19 concerns. Title 42 has been in effect since March of 2020.
“Pressing need of how to handle the unwinding of Title 42 in the future,” Garcia said. Adding that he let Mayorkas know that the unwinding of MPP has been going well. “The unwinding of Migrant Protection Protocols, MPP has been working incredibly well, well planned well organized.”
However, Garcia says he has seen that migrants who are expelled from the U.S. to Mexico, are making the choice to send their children over alone.
As for the number of migrants coming across, Escobar said it’s important to realize that many of these people are not crossing for the first time.
“Forty-two percent are people trying more than once,” said Escobar.
Thompson said both he and Mayorkas will work to get El Paso more vaccines.
“What we heard is if you give us more, we can do more, and I promise I will encourage that when I go back, and the secretary indicated in his comments that he will do likewise,” said Thompson.
Mayorkas met with stakeholders and non-governmental organizations, as well as sheriffs and local law enforcement partners in El Paso, and is also traveling to McAllen, Texas on Thursday. In McAllen, Mayorkas will meet with frontline DHS employees.
This was Mayorkas’ third trip to the Southwest since taking office in February. On March 19, he visited the CHS Trail House in the East El Paso County community of Montana Vista, which houses unaccompanied minors after they are released from federal processing facilities.
On March 6, Mayorkas led a contingency of White House officials to South Texas to visit the tent facility in the town of Donna, Texas, about 20 miles east of McAllen, where undocumented migrants are processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They then flew to Laredo and drove to a detention facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, where undocumented teen migrants are held.