EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — El Paso shelters are seeing an influx of migrants and are preparing for more as Title 42 is expected to end on May 11.
The Opportunity Center for the Homeless is operating at or above capacity. The majority of the migrants they are seeing are from Venezuela.
“The Welcome Center was operating over capacity at this point which is all migrant families. So we’ve seen that increase happen over the past two weeks and it seems to just be a gradual increase,” said John Martin, the deputy director for the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.
Martin said many of the Venezuelans are staying at shelters for longer periods, something the Opportunity Center saw back in the fall of 2022 before Venezuelans were subject to the pandemic-related health order Title 42.
“The individuals that we’re seeing today tend to be predominantly from Venezuela with the appropriate documentation to be able to travel but what we’re finding it’s a bit more complex to work with this group because they don’t have the financial recourses to make those travel plans,” Martin said.
Another shelter, the Rescue Mission of El Paso, has to evict single adult migrants to make room for migrant families due to capacity issues.
“We got so many people in that we had to say OK, there are so many children now that are out there on the street. We’re going to prioritize that population,” said Blake Barrow, the CEO of the Rescue Mission of El Paso.
Barrow spoke with KTSM in his office showing stacks of paperwork for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Barrow said the Rescue Mission is working to get reimbursement for the care of migrants since last September.
However, he says they will not get reimbursed for thousands of migrants who stayed at the shelter but did not have the right documentation.
“The whole thing began back in the early part of September. I think Sept. 9 was the first day that immigration started dropping people off. So we weren’t keeping track of records in that manner and now the feds are tying reimbursement to whether or not you have an A number,” said Barrow.
An “A” number is an alien identification number, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Barrow anticipates that $60,000 to $70,000 will not be reimbursable.
He says the Rescue Mission will continue to take in migrant families but is operating in the red.
“Would we do it anyway if FEMA were not reimbursing us? Yes, we would do the greatest extent that we can. Would we go broke trying to do it? Yes, we would,” Barrow said. “The reality is the Rescue Mission is running in the red every month. We have not yet received any money from FEMA. And the red numbers are pretty big.”
The City of El Paso Office of Emergency Management plans to open Bassett and Morehead Middle Schools as shelters and Mayor Oscar Leeser said on Monday that the Civic Center is ready to go.
In addition, the Office of Emergency Management is working with the County of El Paso for the transportation of migrants.