EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The mayor of El Paso says he will continue to work with local immigrant advocacy nonprofits despite allegations from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that some may be assisting migrants illegally cross into the United States.
Earlier this week, Abbott sent a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton calling him to launch the investigation.
“There have been recent reports that non-governmental organizations may have assisted with illegal border crossings near El Paso,” Abbott said in his letter. “We further understand NGOs may be engaged in unlawfully orchestrating other border crossings through activities on both sides of the border, including in sectors other than El Paso.”
On Thursday, El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city will include area nonprofits in its ongoing contingency plans for the planned Dec. 21 rollback of Title 42. The public health order has allowed border agents to quickly expel migrants back to Mexico, and its court-ordered termination worries local officials about increased migrant traffic in a city already dealing with 2,300 daily unauthorized crossings.
“These are allegations. We will continue to work with all the organizations within the community, make sure everyone’s safe and we do have some great NGOs,” Leeser said during a news conference. “You don’t react to allegations you continue to work with your partners.”
Further asked if the allegations will affect the trust between city officials and El Paso nonprofits, Leeser said it will not.
“We always have trust. That is a very important thing,” he said. “It is very important that we continue moving forward to help the city and do what we need to do to prepare for the possible end of Title 42. And all of us, not just the city but all of us who are working together right now, are preparing ourselves for that.”
Migrant advocacy organizations said they were heartened by Leeser’s vote of confidence.
“The messages of support provided by both Mayor Leeser and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar are welcome and helpful as our community continues to respond to these challenges,” said Marisa Limon Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.
The nonprofit provides legal services, including representation, to migrants ranging from those fighting deportation to others who are in the country legally and want to bring in a relative or file for U.S. citizenship, the NGO’s leaders have told Border Report in previous interviews.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, denied Abbott’s allegations and called them an attempt to intimidate those who do not share his immigration views.
“BNHR expresses its solidarity and support to other human rights and humanitarian organizations that are doing very needed and extremely difficult work on the U.S.-Mexico border. We know firsthand those peer organizations are working within the legal framework to help, to uplift the concerns of marginalized communities and immigrant families,” the nonprofit’s leader said in a statement.
Garcia further called the investigation a “direct attack” on those who are standing up for migrants coming into the country fleeing conditions at home and seeking refuge here. “Now he’s going after humanitarian organizations that support and provide information to vulnerable people who seek asylum and safety in the country,” Garcia said.
Dylan Corbett, executive director of El Paso’s Hope Border Institute, called the investigation “a vile threat” against immigrant advocates.
“This is a vile threat to all of us on the border working to pick up the pieces of a broken immigration system, to create legal pathways for vulnerable migrants and to offer dignified welcome. This intimidation is beneath the dignity of public service,” Corbett tweeted.
Border Report has contacted Abbott’s press office for details on what evidence led to his asking Paxton to start an investigation and for a response to immigration activists’ allegations of a politically motivated attack.