EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border Patrol officials say 917 migrants voluntarily left the streets around Sacred Heart church in South El Paso after a two-day enforcement operation by Department of Homeland Security agencies. Another 44 were apprehended by undercover officers in the area.
“After our messaging, they actually turned themselves in at our (processing facility) at Paso del Norte Bridge,” said El Paso Sector Border Patrol Chief Scott Good. “I don’t have the exact number but a majority of them were released on their own recognizance.”
Border Patrol also detained 187 undocumented migrants at highway checkpoints leading out of El Paso, but none involved forgery of document — which was a concern raised earlier this week in South El Paso.
Good said officials put out a flier informing the migrants of the advantages of reporting for processing, given they would be able to move about and receive some services if released.
Only a few dozen migrants could be seen on the streets surrounding Sacred Heart Church in South El Paso, where a few days ago hundreds occupied sidewalks and neighboring alleys.
The ones that remained held on tight to their immigration parole documents or notices to appear in federal court later, as undercover Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol agents conducted enforcement operations just a block north.
“I have my permit, so I am not worried about immigration (officers),” said Jose, a Venezuelan migrant sitting on the sidewalk a few feet from Sacred Heart’s gates. “I’m going to New York, I’m just $20 short” to get a bus ticket.
ICE, Border Patrol and other agencies on Wednesday continued to carry out a special enforcement operation while local organizations urged migrants with parole documents to go to a shelter.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser acknowledged that the multi-pronged approach is succeeding in helping people get off the streets prior to the expected arrival to the border of others seeking admission as Title 42 public health expulsions end.
“As you can see the numbers are going down a lot because we have been working together on this,” he told reporters as he toured the site on Wednesday.
The mayor said the number of migrants is also going down across the border, in Juarez, Mexico. “Why? Because we have been working on this. Why wait until tomorrow? We started working on this long ago for when this day would come.”
El Paso Environmental Services crews picked up abandoned blankets, discarded clothing, cardboard boxes used as mattresses and trash from the sidewalks. Much-used American Red Cross blankets went into the dump trucks aplenty.
“We are always concerned about the safety of people. We blocked off the streets prior to anything happening,” Leeser said. “The Office of Emergency Management is concerned that every asylum-seeker in El Paso is safe. The priority is to treat people the way they want to be treated.”
The mayor said a shelter is ready to open in a vacant middle school property of the El Paso Independent School District.