EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The El Paso City Council on Tuesday renewed a pair of emergency ordinances so that municipal employees can deploy to nonprofits and the city is free to provide migrants shelter as needed.
The 7-0 vote with the consent of Mayor Oscar Leeser keeps the ordinances in place for another 30 days. The council originally approved them on May 8, 2023.
El Paso witnessed another migrant surge at the end of September and the beginning of October, which resulted in U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing centers holding upwards of 7,000 migrants at one time.
CBP released a big chunk of those migrants on parole or with notices to appear in federal immigration court at a later date. That’s when the city had to step in with housing.
“In the last three to four days the numbers dropped down 1,000 people per day. So, we’ve gone from 1,700 (daily migrant encounters) to 600. That makes a big difference. We’ve closed down all the hotels,” Leeser said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The latest surge prompted the city to close on the purchase of the old Morehead Middle School with the El Paso Independent School District. The buildings are now a dual-purpose municipal facility – a permanent animal services center and an emergency migrant shelter.
Council members approved the extension without discussion. However, Leeser and Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino praised city staff for the efficient handling of the migrant situation.
“In El Paso, we probably have the largest (number) of asylum-seekers crossing anywhere in the country, yet we’ve had no street releases,” Leeser said. “Last month, we were able to (assist) 16,000 people and feed over 40,000 meals and continued to make sure our community is safe, and the asylum-seekers continue to be safe and go to the destination of their choice.”
He added that, unlike other border and large U.S. cities, El Paso this time did not see the release of any migrants from CBP custody straight to the streets. They either went to nonprofits or the city provided hotel rooms or space at the old school for them.
D’Agostino said the city “is now sitting in a better place,” with $30 million in advance Federal Emergency Management Agency funding in the bank. A year ago, the city was relying on reimbursements that take months to process.
“We are in a different situation. We’re able to handle things differently and it has been a smoother operation,” D’Agostino said.