EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso County is giving a nod to community members who helped the region manage huge, recent migrant surges.
Commissioners Court on Monday approved a resolution designating as role models the individuals and organizations that provided basic needs, shelter and comfort to thousands of migrants released from federal immigration custody.
“El Paso’s unique location on the border means we often respond to waves of migration without the ability to enact policy,” said Commissioner David Stout. “Even though we face this barrier, I’m always amazed by our county’s ability to not just respond but to welcome migrants and vulnerable folks that are just passing through and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect.”
El Paso in September and again in December became the epicenter of migration as thousands of Venezuelans and citizens of other countries in Latin America surged across the border. The sheer numbers overwhelmed U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s holding capabilities and thousands were released on parole.
Nonprofit shelters ran out of room and migrants began camping on the streets. El Paso city and county governments spent millions on “welcome centers” to assist the migrants on the hope the federal government would promptly reimburse them. It was at that point of the humanitarian crisis that the dozens of organizations and individuals honored on Monday stepped in.
“When the migrants come here, many come with trauma. We hear a lot of stories, things that happen to them physically, emotionally,” said the Rev. Jean Jacob Jeudy of Walk by Faith International Church. “My wife is one of the volunteers who is a shoulder for them, to listen to their cries, and she cries with them many times, too.”
El Paso residents who want to help the migrants often have to do it across the Rio Grande in Juarez, Mexico, as well.
“Even as the numbers of arriving persons have fallen, allow us to be a voice for the many persons expelled to Juarez every day, for those who died crossing the river and the moms and children who cannot be welcomed to our community because of policies like Title 42,” said Mayte Elizalde, a representative of the Hope Border Institute.
The surge that began in September subsided after the Biden administration began a remote asylum application system for Venezuelans but made all those who crossed the border without authorization eligible for Title 42 expulsions.
Irregular border crossings again surged in December in anticipation of the administration ending Title 42, but a Supreme Court ruling left in place possibly through June. Then the administration also required Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans to remote-apply for asylum or be expelled at the border.
The number of daily Border Patrol apprehensions remains under 1,000 and less than 200 people are being released from immigration custody, as per the City of El Paso’s Migrant Dashboard.
Elizalde said there has to be a better way than keeping vulnerable asylum seekers at bay across the border.
“El Paso County has taken a bold stand to show the rest of the country that immigration is nothing to be feared. We can meet the challenges at our border with compassion and dignity,” she said. But “even as we celebrate our accomplishments as a borderland community, we cannot forget the effect national policies have. Our example must (lead) to a reform of our immigration system on the way to policies that respect the rights of migrants and asylum seekers.”