EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The U.S. Border Patrol reported a record-breaking month for migrant encounters, with almost 30,000 in April, and they expect more this month with the possibility of Title 42 being canceled.
Border Patrol spokesman Carlos Rivera said they are preparing for the influx of migrants and are already expanding capacities to be able to process more migrants.
“That expansion is, again, for the intake capabilities and a waiting area as they are transported out of our custody, hopefully, in a timely manner,” Rivera said.
Title 42 is a public health order to stop the cross-border spread of COVID-19 that has allowed border agents to immediately expel migrants without giving them a chance to seek asylum.
Rivera explained that even if Title 42 is rescinded, this doesn’t mean that the borders will be “open.”
Rivera said the Border Patrol and partnering agencies will still be processing and screening migrants accordingly to determine whether they qualify for asylum or are subject to expulsion from the country.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said local leaders have been meeting with local organizations and the U.S. Border Patrol to coordinate the efforts should there be a migrant surge.
Samaniego explained they feel prepared, however, they are facing staffing shortages.
“The problem right now is capacity to some extent, but right now the big issue is personnel to be able to staff the Annunciation House,” he said.
He said they are currently trying to hire city and county personnel on a volunteer basis, which could speed up the process since they already have their background checks done.
Samaniego believes that the current increase in migrant crossings at the border is the result of the anticipated end of Title 42 and many migrants trying to come ahead of a possible surge.
Rivera said just in the past weekend, there have been 1,200 migrant encounters at the border in the El Paso Sector, explaining that it is usually smaller groups that cross together and surrender to the agents.
He added they are not yet seeing large groups of people come at once.
Marisa Limon Garza, senior director for programing and advocacy at the Hope Border Institute, said the organization has been working with local officials and non-governmental organizations and believes they are prepared.
Hope Border Institute is also coordinating with 18 shelters in Juarez which, Garza said, are nearing capacity.
“There are lots of preparation models in place to make sure people are received and welcomed,” Garza added.
She said rising gas and airfare prices and limited outbound air travel in El Paso are of concern because they are factors that cannot be controlled, but she hopes that the preparedness and coordination will pay off.
She said it is still unknown what the Biden administration will decide regarding Title 42 and what it will look like in practice. Twenty states, including Texas, are awaiting a federal judge’s ruling on whether Title 42 can remain in place.
Annunciation House will be holding a news conference Wednesday to address how they are preparing to receive more migrants.
We will be bringing you full coverage of the press conference throughout the day.
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