EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — El Paso has joined a growing list of major urban centers trying to help immigrants find government and educational resources to make the most of life in the United States.
The El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday on a 3-2 vote approved the position of Outreach Coordinator for Migrant Services through the transfer of $62,620 from a general fund contingency account. The position is modeled after migrant services offices in Houston and Chicago, among others.
“We have been working with the immigrant community in El Paso for the past one to two years and discussing their needs, like an office where folks can to go receive information on educational, workforce and economic development resources,” said Commissioner Precinct 2 David Stout.
And while the new coordinator will gladly assist people who are looking for legal help, “this is not just an office geared, say, toward the undocumented, but possibly toward the entrepreneur who may be from another country and is looking for resources available to help with his business,” he added.
Sharing a border with Mexico, one in four El Pasoans (209,531 out of 840,758 inhabitants) is foreign-born, according to the Census office, and most have been here for more than 15 years.
Their typical needs include where to find English and citizenship classes, health care and jobs, and financing for their businesses, Stout said. His office has found that 16,300 county residents who are foreign-born own a business.
“The goal of this office would be to assist immigrants with integration into this community […] people who are excited about contributing to our community in El Paso,” the county commissioner said. A coordinator probably will be hired within a month and will have to hit the ground running due to a couple of urgent matters affecting the immigrant community.
“Right now, in the era of COVID-19, it’s so much more important for us to be providing this to the immigrant population. A lot of people need information on where they can go for testing and health care, so I definitely see how this office will fit that role,” Stout said.
The other pressing information gap pertains to the 2020 Census. Some immigrants may not be sufficiently informed on how to participate due to a language barrier or who live in unincorporated areas traditionally undercounted, the county commissioner said.
“The census is something that’s on our mind, so this office definitely can assist with that on a daily basis or with COVID-19 or things that may pertain to immigration,” he said.
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