Nearly 750 migrants were reportedly released into the streets of El Paso just a few days into November as federal holding facilities and non-profit shelters continue bursting at the seams.
“The decision to provisionally release migrants was determined after exhausting all other decompression options for the custody of migrants found in the sector,” said a statement regarding the street releases from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
“Customs and Border Protection has coordinated with local food banks and transportation services in an effort to provide resources to those migrants who have been released to the community,” CBP officials said.
The released migrants have been processed and allowed to remain in the United States while awaiting asylum hearings.
Shelters like the Rescue Mission of El Paso have said all their beds are full.
“If capacity is the number of beds you have, we are way past capacity. We’ve gone to throwing down blankets on the floor, utilizing cots in the chapel, just whatever we can do,” said Blake Barrow, the CEO of the Rescue Mission of El Paso.
The street releases come after El Paso suspended its migrant busing operations on October 20. The City said it does not plan to resume the busing of migrants out of El Paso unless it has secured federal funding.
“We are going to need to see some approval or advanced funding before we start any other operations,” Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said during an update on the migrant influx to the city council on last week.
The City of El Paso estimated it has spent more than $9.5 million to shelter and transport migrants this calendar year and is pending federal reimbursement of nearly $7.3 million.
“We are not looking to get in the transportation business again,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said at the council meeting.
The City will only work to help transport migrants who can pay for their travel to reach their next destination and will no longer pay for migrants’ travel, D’Agostino said.
Instead of paying for transportation out of the city, El Paso is assisting non-governmental organizations with staff.
D’Agostino told El Paso Matters that the City had requested $3 million in advanced funding to open a processing center for 30 days.
Since the start of November, the average daily migrant encounters in the El Paso sector have reached 1,650, according to CBP.
The City also has about 3,660 migrants in holding at its central processing center and overflow area.
“We are in a better position than we were a few weeks ago,” Senior Deputy City Manager Tracey Jerome told the city council. “Things have stabilized to a degree, but this is an ongoing crisis, and our work, our efforts to support and provide a humane response to this crisis continue. We want to make clear that we are not done, we’re just in a different phase right now.”
El Paso County’s Migrant Support Services Center, which opened on October 10 to help transport migrants out of the area, has been receiving up to 300 migrants per day, according to communications manager Laura Gallegos.
The center, run by a contracted emergency shelter provider, only accepts single adults with funds to get to their next destination. It plans to scale up to receiving 500 migrants a day in the coming weeks, Gallegos explained.