A dramatic surge of immigrants crossing the U.S. border into El Paso, Texas, is overwhelming the city’s airport, where stranded migrants with no other options have been camping on the floor.
El Paso recently ended a charter bus program that brought nearly 11,000 immigrants to New York City across the span of two months, citing a drop in arrivals and funding concerns. Since then, migrants entering the country at the biggest border city in Texas have been depending on commercial buses and the airport to head out of town to other destinations. However, many of those at the airport do not have flights booked and have instead been using it as a place to stay.
Before El Paso closed its migrant welcome center and its busing program in the end of October, immigrants waited for their flight or bus at the center or were put up in hotels by the city. However, now more than 100 people are packed into one designated area in the airport. In photos, asylum-seeking migrants can be seen packed into a terminal building surrounded by piles of clothes and other belongings.
The airport set up cots in September to create a designated area to accommodate immigrants who had flights in the early morning and a wait of under 12 hours. However, more and more migrants have been using the airport as a shelter, which is drawing considerable concern.
El Paso City Council member Claudia Rodriguez said that the airport is overwhelmed, with some migrants sleeping there after being released to the airport by the Border Patrol. She added that many of the city’s residents are not aware of the situation.
The airport’s aviation director, Sam Rodriguez, confirmed that there is a concerning number of migrants in the facility to the New York Post, saying: “We’ve certainly seen an increase of folks at the airport especially on the overnights here in the last couple of days. It’s a matter of the volume (that) continues to come through.”
The mayor of El Paso, Oscar Leeser, has resisted calls to declare a state of emergency in his city. Many believe this decision is the result of pressure from the White House; reports indicate they asked Leeser not to declare such an emergency out of fears that it would tarnish the reputation of President Joe Biden.
When asked why he turned down the city council’s request to declare an emergency, Leeser reportedly told Rodriguez that the White House had asked him not to do so. However, Leeser maintains publicly that he makes his decisions based on the best interests of the city’s citizens.
The Border Patrol recently asked El Paso to reopen its migrant welcome center so that immigrants wouldn’t have to be released on the streets, but the city declined, noting that it has spent nearly $9 million on the border crisis so far; the White House has promised to reimburse this money but has failed to do so.
City spokesperson Laura Cruz-Acosta said: “The federal government has asked us to open it [migrant center] and we’ve said we will consider opening it but we need to be paid in addition to being able to be reimbursed because again, we are still waiting for the reimbursement. And we know that is going to take some time. Before we can stand up our services again, we are asking them to please provide us funding up front.”
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