While the end of Title 42 overnight was calm and quiet along the El Paso-Juarez border, it’s likely a different story inside area Border Patrol processing centers.
More than 6,200 migrants were in Border Patrol custody on Friday in the El Paso sector, which includes El Paso County and all of New Mexico – putting the weekly average of 5,000 in custody at the same rate the area saw in late December, the city’s migrant dashboard shows.
The large number in custody is due in part to the 1,600 migrants who crossed the border into El Paso and surrendered themselves to Border Patrol agents on Thursday looking to beat the expiration of Title 42, after which they could face tougher consequences for entering the country illegally under the Title 8 immigration law.
Because of the high volume of migrants arriving at the border, some were released without a notice to appear in immigration court and were instead instructed to report to an immigration office at a later time.
But a federal judge in Florida blocked that practice – a ruling CBP called “harmful.” CBP in a statement said it would comply with the court order but warned it will result in unsafe overcrowding at its facilities. CBP officials in El Paso didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, in a briefing with reporters on Friday, said severe overcrowding in detention facilities can be dangerous. She cited the flu-related death of a Guatemalan teenager in Border Patrol custody in 2019 during the Trump administration. A government report later found agents did not check in on the ill teen.
Here’s a round-up of other happenings in the last few days surrounding migrants and Title 42:
- The city dashboard also shows just over 2,300 migrants were released into the community this week, about half of them on Friday. Migrants in El Paso who’ve been processed and allowed to remain in the country to await their immigration hearing are typically released to area shelters that house them for a few days until they find travel to their next destination.
- The El Paso Opportunity Center for the Homeless is housing about 180 migrants, 100 of whom entered the county just hours before Title 42 expired, director John Martin said. Among them are 93 families, 72 single men and 18 single women. Martin noted that many of the migrants who surrendered themselves to border agents on Wednesday have begun to be released, and some have returned to the center. Just last week, upwards of 800 migrants had been sleeping in an alley behind the center.
- The area around Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where up to 1,800 migrants had congregated earlier in the week, was mostly quiet Friday. About two dozen migrants remained there throughout the day, some of whom had recently been released from CBP custody.
- El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, who issued a disaster declaration over the migrant humanitarian crisis effective May 1, said there are about 150 people in an emergency shelter erected by the city and the American Red Cross at a vacant school. The migrants at Bassett Middle School are all families, while some single adults have been sheltered at hotels under contract with the city.
- Activity around the El Paso County Migrant Services Support Center seemed steady this morning, with no unusual traffic of white DHS buses that carry migrants to the facility after they’ve been processed. Last week, nearly 2,700 migrants were processed at the center. Statistics for this week won’t be available until Monday.
- At the border wall adjacent to the border highway in the Lower Valley, only a few dozen migrants were seen being placed into DHS buses, while a few were taken away in a Border Patrol van. On Friday, there were more reporters with TV cameras than border and law enforcement agents at the gates that had seen a lot of activity the past two weeks.
El Paso Matters reporters Christian Betancourt, Daniel Perez, Claudia Silva and Priscilla Totiyapungprasert contributed to this report.