EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — The Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court on Tuesday unanimously extended a disaster declaration due to the thousands of migrants at the South Texas border as Title 42 border restrictions have been lifted.
Meanwhile, busloads of asylum-seekers are now being sent to Washington, D.C., and Chicago from Anzalduas Park, which is owned by Hidalgo County and is being used to house an overflow of migrants, county Emergency Management Coordinator Ricardo Saldaña told commissioners.
This is part of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s controversial Operation Lone Star migrant border initiative, which has sent over 18,570 migrants from the Southwest border on 405 buses since 2022, the governor’s office told Border Report. This includes busing over 9,300 migrants to Washington, D.C.; 6,500 to New York City; 1,800 to Chicago, and nearly 1,000 to Philadelphia.
Anzalduas Park, in Mission, Texas, on Friday received an overflow of 1,400 migrants from federal authorities, most from Brownsville, Texas, Saldaña told Border Report.
Brownsville, which is in Cameron County, is over an hour’s drive east of the park. Prior to Thursday night’s lifting of Title 42, over 30,000 asylum-seekers, mostly Venezuelans, crossed the Rio Grande from Matamoros, Mexico, overwhelming the South Texas border city.
Title 42 is the pandemic-era public health order imposed in March 2020 by the Trump administration restricting migrants from claiming asylum at the U.S. border in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. It was lifted at 10:59 p.m. CT Thursday night and immediately replaced with the longstanding immigration removal law Title 8, which is being used to send back asylum-seekers to Mexico or repatriate them to their home countries if they do not cross legally through U.S. ports of entry and request asylum interviews via the CBP One app.
But since Friday, the number of asylum-seekers in the RGV has dropped by two-thirds, Border Patrol RGV Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez says. CBP sources told NewsNation that there were fewer than 4,000 illegal crossings on Monday along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, and that none of the nine Border Patrol sectors along the border had 1,000 illegal crossings.
However, since so many came across prior to the deadline, local Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding facilities were already at maximum capacity.
The City of McAllen is managing the care of the asylum-seekers who are legally released by federal authorities. And some are opting to take free buses north.
McAllen officials told Border Report that starting Friday, migrants who agreed began being placed on buses to Chicago and Washington, D.C.
“The City of McAllen and the Texas Division of Emergency Management have collaborated to start busing some of these migrants to outside the state of Texas, to Chicago and Washington D.C.,” Saldaña said.
Since Saturday, the park has received 200 to 250 people per day. On Tuesday, the park had fewer than 200, McAllen spokeswoman Xochitl Mora told Border Report.
That drop is in line with a 66% drop in asylum-seekers in the Rio Grande Valley since Title 42 ended.
Each bus carries about 50 migrants, and two buses per day are leaving the park, which currently is closed to the public. The park overlooks Reynosa, Mexico, across the Rio Grande and is a popular area for boaters.
The buses are being provided by Abbott through TDEM and began on Friday.
Migrants are given the choice if they would like to use that free transportation, Mora said.
“Immigrants volunteering to go to a particular city are being vetted by Catholic Charities to ensure they have a relative or contact who can receive them, before releasing them to the bus travel. Catholic Charities is handling that process, working with non-profits in those cities also, to coordinate receiving the migrants,” she said.
Commissioners on Tuesday morning unanimously extended the disaster declaration for 90 days. Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez had issued the disaster order Thursday, just hours before Title 42 was lifted, and it was valid for only seven days without further commission approval.
Commissioners did not discuss the migrant situation, nor why they extended the order. They quickly voted on the agenda item that read that the disaster declaration was necessary: “Due to the thousands of migrants gathering at or near the U.S.-Mexico border awaiting processing after Title 42 ends, which poses a significant public safety and security concern.”
When asked by Border Report why it is necessary to extend if the number of asylum-seekers has dropped so precipitously in the region, Saldaña said: “The reason why is in case we get an influx. Even though CBP and the federal government are doing a good job of controlling it, but we never know. Things may change that we start getting an influx of people coming through the river, not through the port of entries.”
“We don’t want to see happen here what happened in Cameron County and Brownsville,” he said.
The disaster declaration is good for 90 days but can be revoked at any time.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com