‘Street Releases,’ Shuttered Shelter Strain El Paso


Souther U.S. and Mexico Border | Image by Shutterstock

As historic levels of migrants enter the country, cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, such as El Paso, are struggling to handle the influx.

In 2022, the number of migrants for the first time exceeded 2 million people, as reported by The Dallas Express. Since the inauguration of President Joe Biden and the subsequent shifts in immigration policy, roughly 4.9 million people have sought to cross the southern border, including an estimated 900,000 unlawful migrants who evaded detection.

To date, 33 counties in Texas have declared that the migrant surge constitutes an invasion, and Gov. Greg Abbott has allocated $4 billion in resources to secure the border in lieu of federal action.

In the midst of this unprecedented influx, the border town of El Paso faces increasing strain due to a combination of what are commonly referred to as “street releases” and shelters having to close their doors.

At one point in September, U.S. Border Patrol authorities released over 1,000 migrants directly on the streets of El Paso over the course of six days, leading the city to begin its own busing program on top of the state-run efforts.

The issue has become even more pressing as one of the largest shelters in the city has closed its doors due to the need for repairs and a lack of volunteers, according to director Ruben Garcia.

The shelter, Casa del Refugiado, was run by a local nonprofit Annunciation House, and had the capacity to house up to 1,500 migrants after they crossed the border.

In an attempt to meet the need, El Paso opened the Migrant Welcome Center last month. The city taxpayer-funded facility offers food, water, basic healthcare, assistance with communication, and travel arrangements to the migrants.

However, that center can only assist roughly 300 migrants out of the over 1,000 people who come in to the city every day. Additionally, the center is not a shelter and cannot provide overnight accommodation.

Other groups, such as the Catholic church, have also been assisting the city to handle the continuous flow of migrants.

Dylan Corbett, a leader of activist group Hope Border Institute, suggested, “Currently, we are working with the Diocese of El Paso on a major plan to expand the hospitality provided by the Catholic church in El Paso to meet the needs.”

El Paso is not the desired final destination for most of those arriving, and the city of El Paso has turned to voluntary busing migrants to other cities. Nearly 40 buses chartered by the city have carried roughly 7,000 migrants to New York City and more than 1,800 to Chicago.

The city’s program is keeping pace with Gov. Greg Abbott’s state-sponsored busing operation that has sent over 8,200 migrants to Washington D.C. since April, over 3,100 migrants to New York City since August 5, and more than 920 migrants to Chicago since August 31.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city is seeking federal reimbursement for busing costs.

“This is a federal issue,” Leeser said. “They’re not coming to El Paso, they’re coming to the United States.”

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