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This is your Friday update, which takes a quick look at the week ahead and some developments that El Paso Matters is following.
Migrants Sleeping on Downtown Sidewalks: Some migrants released from U.S. Border Patrol custody to the streets have been sleeping on Downtown sidewalks, covering themselves with boxes and Red Cross blankets to keep warm after they couldn’t find area shelters to take them in, they said. The El Paso Sector of Border Patrol has released nearly 750 migrants to the streets since Nov. 4 as an increased number of migrants arrive at the border. El Paso area agents are encountering an average of 1,650 migrants a day, a majority from Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Nicaragua, a spokesman said in an email statement. The asylum seekers are allowed to stay in the country to await their immigration hearings.
City leaders have said they will no longer pay to transport migrants out of the region without advanced funding from the federal government, which has not provided temporary shelter as it did for the Afghan migrants at Fort Bliss in the past. The county’s migrant center, which helps coordinate travel for asylum seekers who can pay their own way, has been assisting 300 migrants a day and plans to upscale its capacity in the coming weeks.
County Commissioners Consider Approving Bonds The El Paso County Commissioners Court is set to take the next step toward issuing up to $100 million in certificates of obligation bonds – debt that doesn’t require voter approval – for a slew of projects to improve county facilities and programs. The court on Monday will review its Major Capital Plan to finalize its project list and the amount it’s seeking to borrow, and on Thursday could vote to publish a notice of intent to issue the bonds – a step required to inform the public of how issuing the debt will impact taxpayers. The bonds would be issued in January.
Jose Landeros, the county’s director of capital planning, has said the COs won’t increase the county’s debt portion of the tax rate because old debt will be paid off in 2024 just as it would begin paying off the new bonds if approved. Even if the tax rate remains the same, taxpayers could see larger tax bills if their home valuations increase. The county’s financial advisers said the $100 million issuance could cost the owner of a $165,000 home about $25 a year. The county is also eyeing putting up to $100 million worth of bonds on the November 2024 ballot for quality-of-life projects such as improvements to Ascarate Park.
Climate Charter Amendments on May Ballot: The petition submitted by Ground Game Texas in July asking for the El Paso City Charter to include a climate policy had enough valid signatures to force the City Council to put the proposed amendments on the May 2023 ballot. The city’s clerk office certified the petition this week. Along with other steps, the proposed ballot language must be approved by the City Council by Feb. 14. The first reading of the ordinance is expected to be on Jan. 31.