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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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City of El Paso Buses Migrants to NYC

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Migrants are being processed by state officials and Texas National Guard at the Opportunity Center on Aug. 29, 2022 | Image by KFOX14/CBS4)

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The city government of El Paso chartered a bus to send 35 migrants to New York City on Tuesday through a new program called the “Welcome Center.”

The bus is one of several the city has chartered to move migrants out of the region. The city has declined to say precisely how many buses have been chartered and where they have headed.

The Opportunity Center for the Homeless partnered with the city of El Paso and several other nonprofits to form the Welcome Center. The partnership provides travel for migrants who end up homeless after being processed at the border and released by federal officials.

John Martin, the deputy director for the Opportunity Center, said the Welcome Center was necessitated by migrants continuously showing up to the homeless shelter on their own.

“We noticed a number of individuals – who were migrants that had presented themselves legally at the border and then had subsequently been released – that were making their way here. They were walk-ins,” Martin said. “These are individuals who just showed up at our door.”

Martin said the Opportunity Center reached out to El Paso’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for assistance.

“Those conversations started with OEM, and they asked if we could provide support because they were informed that the processing center was over capacity and there was a potential that folks could be [released] into the streets,” Martin said.

Since last Tuesday, OEM has sponsored four busloads of migrants to New York City. Officials said FEMA would reimburse the city the cost of busing the migrants.

On June 21, the OEM chartered a bus to send 50 migrants to Faith Forward Dallas, a nonprofit alliance of religious leaders.

“The June charter was to help local non-governmental organizations with capacity,” said El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino.

Another bus was scheduled to leave Monday to Chicago, but only five migrants volunteered, not enough migrants to justify the trip; thus, it was canceled.

One migrant, who traveled alone from Venezuela, told KTSM 9 News that she was hoping to catch the bus to Chicago to get closer to her final destination in Georgia.

“There are so many reasons to leave Venezuela,” she said of her home country. “There’s a lot of criminal activity, the lack of medicine, for injury or a flu. Those are the big reasons.”

El Paso’s OEM had been coordinating the busing. However, on Monday, officials at the scene told reporters that locals were handing off the program’s administration to the state of Texas.

Members of the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas State Guard are now in charge of processing migrants at the Welcome Center and their transport away from El Paso.

In a statement to KTSM, the Texas Military Department said, “in conjunction with our interagency partners, is assisting with escort functions as part of Operation Lone Star along the Texas-Mexico border.”

D’Agostino, the Deputy City Manager, confirmed the city was now working with the state of Texas to provide transportation for migrants that do not have sponsors.

“This issue remains a humanitarian concern for the City of El Paso and the Office of Emergency Management due to the increasing number of migrants passing through the region, limited federal and local shelter capacities, and [an] increasing number of migrants that are not sponsored or have means to travel,” D’Agostino said in a statement.

The Democrat-led city is officially joining Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has sent busloads of migrants to Washington D.C. and New York City. The buses sent by Texas have allegedly strained social services in New York, leading to complaints by the city’s officials against Gov. Abbott.

Since April, Texas has sent more than 7,400 migrants to Washington D.C.; since August, more than 1,500 migrants have been sent to New York City, a press release from Gov. Abbott’s office said.

“The busing mission is providing much-needed relief to our overwhelmed border communities,” the Governor’s office said.

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