EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso city officials are taking steps to prepare for a new mass migrant surge on or about May 11. That’s when the Biden administration plans to end the national COVID-19 health emergency that gave rise to Title 42. The regulation allows border agents to quickly expel most migrants coming across the border without authorization.
The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved extending an emergency ordinance that allows the city manager to shift municipal resources and personnel in response to those mass arrivals. The ordinance is different from the more extreme December disaster declaration that the council let expire.
“We are anticipating a large number of people coming over once Title 42 is not in place,” City Attorney Karla Nieman said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
That’s despite new rules by the Biden administration requiring asylum-seekers from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti to apply for asylum remotely, and a new proposed rule to turn back others who show up at the border without having sought protection in countries they traveled through before getting here.
“We don’t anticipate that it will necessarily stem the large number of people that are already waiting in Mexico or in other countries to come into the United States,” Nieman said.
Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino echoed her observations.
He said the number of migrants coming across the border in El Paso has dropped since January. But city officials remain in contact with partner government agencies and migrant advocacy nonprofits in case that changes. One such partnership allows the city to house migrants in two vacant elementary schools.
“Luckily, with the agreement we have with (El Paso Independent School District), the tools we have, the equipment we have set up is ready to flip on operationally if need be with those extra spaces,” D’Agostino told the council.
The city is prepared to once again assist with housing, transportation and food for migrants released from federal immigration custody if need be. In the meantime, the El Paso Police Department, through Operation Stone Garden funds, is ready to assist the Border Patrol with public safety issues, such as migrants coming over the border wall and rushing busy highways.
“It’s going to take continuing work with EPPD, with the Texas Department of Public Safety, with the Texas military to ensure that we are at least watching those (border wall) gates, letting Customs and Border Patrol know when they have breaches so we don’t have people crossing through the roadways and entering communities in an unsafe fashion. Again, not only for them but for the community itself,” D’Agostino said.
City Council Rep. Henry Rivera said residents in his district have called him regarding seeing migrants placing themselves in harm’s way on the highways, trespassing on private property and leaving clothing and trash behind.
He and the rest of the council voted unanimously to keep the emergency ordinance in place for another 30 days.