EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — On the street where migrants are congregating during the day and sleeping during the night outside of Sacred Heart Church, multiple El Paso police officers could be seen along with Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers.
The El Paso Police Department said in a statement it has increased its presence in the area for the protection of both migrants and local residents.
“This increase was a result of multiple complaints from both migrants and residents about drug-related issues and individuals exploiting the migrants,” said a statement from the El Paso Police Department.
In the past few weeks two incidents involving harassment of migrants have been reported in the area.
On Tuesday, a man named Raymundo Maese was arrested for outstanding warrants after he was allegedly harassing migrants near Sacred Heart Church.
On New Year’s Eve, a man named Steven Driscoll was arrested after allegedly pointing a gun at migrants outside of Sacred Heart Church. According to court documents, Driscoll claimed he was “doing it for America”. Driscoll is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, evading arrest and/or detention in a motor vehicle; and disorderly conduct and also faces federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Congresswoman Veronica Escobar said the recent incidents in the area are concerning.
“All of the xenophobic hateful bigoted language and posturing has consequences and so I worry about our volunteers, and I do worry also about that population,” said Congresswoman Veronica Escobar.
Escobar added that she shared an article about Driscoll with the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and said she had conversations with him and President Joe Biden about the population near Sacred Heart Church and their vulnerability.
The Director of the Border Network for Human Rights wants to get the migrants off of the street.
“I think we need to get everybody out of the streets because of the weather and because of this situation of violence and migrants being targeted,” said Fernando Garcia the Director of the Border Network for Human Rights.
As we have reported many of the people sleeping near the church are undocumented, from countries subject to expulsion. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar commenting on why some shelters will not take in undocumented migrants.
“The City of El Paso I think you have probably heard they have stated they cannot take in those undocumented migrant who are on the street because it jeopardizes their FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funding and that is absolutely correct,” said Escobar.
KTSM 9 News speaking to migrants in the area asking them if they had concerns about their safety.
“We’re not afraid of people, we are afraid of immigration. There have been a lot of people who have helped us,” said one man who has been camping outside of the church.