Nearly 10,000 migrants who made their way to El Paso the past week were either expelled from the country or sent to other U.S. Border Patrol sectors for processing, the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday night.
More than 3,400 of those migrants were expelled to Mexico under Title 42 or returned to their home countries by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement through expedited removal flights, officials said in a news release. About 6,000 migrants were moved to other cities to be processed in what Border Patrol calls “lateral decompression” to alleviate the federal facilities holding a record number of migrants arriving at the El Paso border.
The DHS actions aimed to ease the influx of migrants at the El Paso border as Title 42 was set to be lifted Wednesday before the Supreme Court extended the public health order on Monday. Title 42 allows for the immediate expulsion of some migrants. Had it been lifted, thousands more migrants would be released to the streets.
DHS said it’s also been working with Mexico to ”discourage disorderly migration and disrupt criminal smuggling operations” – which has led to a 40% drop in the number of migrants border agents have encountered over the last three days. Average daily encounters in the sector – which includes El Paso and all of New Mexico – have decreased from about 2,500 a day to about 1,500 daily, DHS said.
The department has been working “to enforce our laws safely, humanely, and orderly, including quickly decompressing the El Paso area and placing migrants encountered in immigration enforcement proceedings,” the release states. Among other measures, DHS said it has deployed additional agents to the region and improved processing systems the past six months. It also created civilian positions to process migrants and keep more agents on the line – a measure brought forward by U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso.
In anticipation of Title 42 ending, Mayor Oscar Leeser on Saturday issued a disaster declaration that triggered Gov. Greg Abbott to send 4,000 Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to El Paso. The state also started busing migrants from El Paso to New York City and other “sanctuary cities” this week under Abbott’s Operation Lone Star following the city’s declaration.
On Tuesday, guardsmen and Border Patrol agents moved a few hundred migrants who had been waiting along the Rio Grande riverbed to ask for asylum closer to a nearby port of entry, where they were expected to be processed starting Wednesday.
Despite the combined efforts, migrants are still being released to the streets – either by Border Patrol or by shelters where the migrants were only allowed to stay a few days.
To help keep migrants off the street, two vacant schools and the convention center will be transformed into temporary shelters, city officials said in a press release Tuesday evening.
The El Paso Independent School District will open Bassett and Morehead middle schools, in Central and West El Paso, respectively, primarily for women, children and families. The city’s Judson F. Williams Convention Center in Downtown will also be set up to accommodate migrants.
“All eyes are on El Paso and for this reason, we must show the world the compassion our community is known for and illustrate the resilience and strength of our region,” City Manager Tommy Gonzalez stated in the release.
EPISD Superintendent Diana Sayavedra stated that in times of crisis, “it is important for the community to work collaboratively to assist those in need.”
The El Paso Office of Emergency Management will prepare the sites, which will be run with the help of the American Red Cross.
The Red Cross has volunteers on standby, and has been supporting various organizations providing aid to migrants along the border and other cities across the country, the organization said in a statement. Aside from emergency care training, the Red Cross is providing cots, blankets, first aid kits and towels.
El Paso has been at the center of the massive influx of migrants from Central and South America the past several months.
On Tuesday, just under 2,600 migrants were being held at the El Paso sector’s Central Processing Center compared to the more than 4,000 in recent days, according to the city’s migrant dashboard.
That same day, about 1,200 migrants were released to area shelters, and about 80 were released to the streets. That’s significantly lower than the 300 to 500 migrants who were being released to the streets almost daily in previous weeks.