EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – No migrants have been released on the streets of El Paso since Title 42 ended, and community organizations have been able to help those coming out of federal immigration processing centers.
Nonetheless, the City of El Paso on Monday extended for 30 days an emergency ordinance to use municipal employees and resources to cope with the ongoing immigration phenomenon.
The Office of Emergency Management told the City Council on Monday that the number of migrants under U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody in El Paso has dropped dramatically since the federal government halted Title 42 public health expulsions to Mexico on May 11. The older Title 8 statute, which has administrative and criminal penalties for repeat unauthorized crossers, went into effect on May 12.
“We have seen something quite significant over the past seven days that is not what we had anticipated,” said Lt. Jorge Rodriguez, OEM coordinator. “The daily number of apprehensions is down dramatically and they are averaging 600 encounters a day from Border Patrol.”
That’s a 50% drop from the peak 1,200 daily apprehensions during the last week Title 42 was in place.
In addition, CBP processing centers in El Paso that saw a historical high of 6,200 migrants in custody during the transition from Title 42 to Title 8 as of Monday were holding only 2,100, Mayor Oscar Leeser said.
“We don’t want to pat ourselves on the back because we don’t know the unknown. We don’t know what’s coming in. (But) we are prepared if the situation does change and we will continue to get prepared,” Leeser said.
The council agreed with the assessment, as it voted unanimously to extend the emergency ordinance another 30 days.
“It’s a fluid situation. We don’t know what’s going to happen next, but we will rise to the occasion,” City Council Rep. Isabel Salcido.
El Paso has been the epicenter of illegal migration — both asylum-seekers seeking lawful protection by giving themselves up at the border as well as economic migrants seeking to evade apprehension — for the past seven months.
Venezuelan migrants, in particular, have been coming across from Juarez by the thousands since last September.
However, Leeser said he was in touch with Mexican officials that reiterated recently what told him last week: The number of migrants at shelters in Juarez and new arrivals remains low.
Border Report was able to document as much last week at migrant street camps which are either abandoned or, as is the case with the one next to Juarez City Hall, holding only a few families and single adults waiting for an online asylum appointment in the U.S. or looking for alternative means to get across.
The mayor said the White House is pleased with the way El Paso reacted to the humanitarian, public safety and economic migrant emergency.
“The White House called Thursday night to congratulate the city for […] being prepared and how we handled this,” Leeser said. “I explained it was not one person; we actually had an incredible team. (The) job we did was treat people with respect and dignity and make sure our community remained safe.”
Leeser said the federal government has been a good partner to the city in facilitating resources in response to critical stretches of the migrant surge.
Also on Monday, El Paso County officials approved short-term emergency spending on a local bus company transporting migrants from federal processing centers to the county’s Migrant Services Support Center and providing long-distance emergency busing to transportation hubs outside the city.
Community Services Executive Director Irene Valenzuela told Commissioners Court that county officials were expecting to use the long-distance emergency busing numerous times a week. However, due to the low demand, only one charter bus has left El Paso for Dallas so far and only one more is expected to leave this week.