EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso officials are trying to ensure federal funding to avoid a major humanitarian crisis in the region once Title 42 migrant expulsions stop on December 21.
Already, the number of daily migrant apprehensions is shooting up, nonprofit shelters are full and federal holding facilities are operating at several times their capacity.
“It’s getting very critical. I’ve always called it a manageable crisis, but we’re almost at the point of maybe not being able to call it a manageable crisis but an actual crisis here in our community,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego.
U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector Acting Chief Peter Jaquez said on social media his agents are seeing a major spike in illegal border crossings. This weekend, apprehensions shot up to 7,380, or an average of 2,460 per day.
Some of that had to do with a 1,500-strong migrant caravan that arrived in neighboring Chihuahua state last week. Mexican officials concerned for their safety bused them to Juarez on Saturday. The buses stopped at shelters, but the migrants left, crossed the Rio Grande and surrendered to U.S. authorities in hopes of getting asylum.
Many of those in the caravans were Nicaraguans, who have been usually exempted from Title 42 expulsions. But others were Venezuelans and Central Americans who couldn’t wait until December 21.
“What happens is they’re very close to the border and there’s a sense of desperation. Timing becomes very difficult so they will get here earlier, quicker than they thought. Being on the other side is not as effective for them, so they start crossing over even prior to Title 42” ending, Samaniego said.
However, the current surge has been building up for weeks. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data relayed to the City of El Paso shows daily apprehensions up in the past three weeks and the average of migrants in federal custody above 4,000 for the past two weeks. Local officials expect the numbers to grow after December 21.
“From my understanding, after the 21st of December, it could be as high as 4,200 to 4,500 a day – which would double the apprehensions we have right now,” Samaniego said, adding that federal agencies and the county are working separately on “decompression” efforts. “If we don’t have the transportation and we don’t get the flights from Border Patrol in a timely basis, it begins to back up and they have to release (the migrants).”
CBP is releasing 892 migrants per day into the community, with 286 so-called street releases, according to the City of El Paso’s December 12 Migrant Dashboard report.
The only way to cope with increased numbers is through increased funding, Samaniego said. He and other local officials hope to raise the topic of increased federal funding when Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visits El Paso on Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, said the migrant surge El Paso is experiencing will become the new normal after December 21.
“This is what the New Ellis Island looks like: 611 migrants out on the streets because the NGOs are out of capacity; every Border Patrol agent in processing centers overcapacity with 5,000 folks. This is exactly what Democrats wanted. They’ve been asking for this for over two years and here it is. Sadly, it’s the people of El Paso who are going to have to pay the brunt of this border crisis,” Gonzales opined.
The West Texas congressman who represents most of the Texas-Mexico border said migrants have been trickling into Northern Mexico in anticipation of the rollback of Title 42 and “are getting the green light to start now.”
Gonzales said he has availed himself to El Paso officials to assist in finding a solution to an escalating crisis.
“It’s not fair to the people of El Paso (that) the federal government has caused this problem. I’ve seen the exact same thing happen in Del Rio and Eagle Pass, to name a few. This is only the beginning. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does,” he said.
KTSM reached out to U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, for comment and is awaiting a response.