EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) The City of El Paso is opening the vacant Bassett Middle School and Morehead Middle School as migrant shelters ahead of Title 42 being lifted on Thursday, May 11.
Both schools have a capacity for only 1,000 people, but the city commented the convention center is on standby for additional shelter space, which can hold up to 2,000 people.
On Wednesday, May 10 the city gave the media a tour of the shelter at Bassett, which consisted of cots lined in rows. The city says the shelter is already open but on Wednesday afternoon, there were no migrants present yet.
Migrants will have to have been processed by Border Patrol to be able to stay at the city’s school shelters.
The school shelters are being operated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds that the city has received upfront.
The City of El Paso requested over $40 million from the federal government and officials say they have received $27 million.
Additionally, the Red Cross will be assisting at the shelters along with city employees and other organizations to help migrants make arrangements to leave El Paso.
The city was asked about the timing of the shelters opening after El Paso has been experiencing a surge of migrants over the past few weeks with people sleeping out on the streets.
“The school’s ready, the transportation center’s ready, the welcoming center’s ready, everything ready we just don’t have that demand yet. What we’ve seen on the streets of El Paso the past few days, the last week is a lot of unsponsored migrants who are passing through the community or are waiting in line for what they did yesterday. They went and turned themselves in so they could get processed,” said the Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino.
At this point, the city is not busing migrants out of El Paso, but they say they are prepared to and are waiting to see what migrants need, especially after large numbers that were staying outside of Sacred Heart Church turned themselves into Border Patrol on Tuesday, May 9.
“As those start coming out in the coming days, that will determine what kind of transportation is needed. Our first and primary is to help those who have a means. A lot of them might not be able to afford to go out of El Paso, or they might not be able to get a timely flight or bus ticket out of El Paso,” said D’Agostino.
Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city is preparing for the unknown as they do not know how many people will be arriving once Title 42 is lifted, and if they will mostly be families or single adults.
“We want to make sure we help them. We need to decompress the system, we can’t if we were going to get 10,000 a day which is a number that’s been thrown around,” said Leeser.
However, Leeser said he did go to Juarez and there were a lot fewer people this week compared to last week giving a new estimate of how many are there waiting to cross.
“I went along the highway and the numbers are way down. I did get numbers that I think will be somewhere between 5 to 8 to maybe 10,000 that are prepared to come, and this is what we have been preparing for,” Leeser added.
On Wednesday, along the border highway migrants continue to gather by the border fence and could be seen being loaded onto border patrol buses.