EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Even as House Republican leaders announced a trip to border communities whose resources are allegedly being overwhelmed by illegal immigration, two El Paso leaders say the situation isn’t out of control.
“You know, in El Paso we do not have that crisis today, and we need to make sure that we continue to, as the borders open up, that we continue to protect our community, and I think the El Paso is doing an excellent job today of making sure we welcome people to our country,” El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said Thursday in an interview with CNN’s Brianna Keilar.
Meantime, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, told KTSM that the arrival of migrants from other parts of the border for processing in El Paso is nothing new.
“Back in 2014 we saw the Rio Grande Valley Sector being unable to process the number of families arriving because they don’t have the same resources or capacity that the El Paso Sector has,” said Escobar, whose 16th Congressional District includes most of El Paso. “So, they chartered flights and sent migrants to El Paso to be processed (here). The exact same thing is happening today. So, this is not unlike what we experienced in 2014.”
She characterized the response by local officials and nonprofits at the time as “amazing and beautiful.”
This time, though, El Paso has the added challenge of dealing with COVID-19.
El Paso is one of three ports of entry where asylum-seekers previously placed on the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program are being allowed to return from Mexico. But local nonprofit shelter operators say the 50 daily arrivals don’t pose a problem to their resources.
Recently, however, airplane loads of newly arrived migrants detained in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley have been flown to El Paso for processing and sheltering prior to their release, free to travel to the interior of the United States. Up to 270 migrants are expected to be flown in every day, and news reports from South Texas say not all have been tested for COVID-19. At least nine of those new arrivals have tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The federal government under Biden is offering resources to local communities to help with the testing and quarantining (of migrants), and Gov. Abbott is rejecting those funds,” Escobar said. “That is causing a stress on local resources (but) I lay that at the feet of Greg Abbott.”
Escobar said the problem she sees right now is “the beginnings of an unacceptable length of stay for unaccompanied migrants.”
Migrant minors by law aren’t supposed to remain in detention beyond 72 hours but they’re staying longer because there’s not enough space in shelters designated for their care.
She said she would meet with the Department of Health and Human Services to find out the reasons for the bottleneck in getting them out of detention.
Escobar said the current administration isn’t to blame for the current spike in unauthorized migration.
“For the last four years nothing was done to address the root causes of this. Building walls and the inhuman treatment of people didn’t change migration patterns. It didn’t address the root causes,” she said. “Obviously, the flow never stopped. People are running for their lives and fleeing for reasons that have gone unaddressed by leaders in this Hemisphere. It’s going to take some time to address those root causes, but we gotta do it.”