Houston takes part in decompressing migrant surge in El Paso ahead of Title 42 end date

Rosie Nguyen Image
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Houston takes part in decompressing migrant surge before Title 42 ends
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For many migrants, advocates said the incredibly dangerous journey from their native country to the U.S. is done out of very dire circumstances.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A major surge of migrants that began over the weekend is prompting a swift and heavy response from officials in the El Paso area. Swarms of people are pleading their case for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, as Title 42 is scheduled to be repealed on Dec. 21. The influx is straining local resources, including transportation, local shelters, and nonprofit organizations.

RELATED: What is Title 42? How will it impact the Texas-Mexico border?

For many migrants, advocates said the incredibly dangerous journey from their native country to the U.S. is done out of very dire circumstances. Some can be a matter of life or death.

"These are people who are fleeing violence in their home country. For a lot of them, this is a difficult journey that has taken over a month. Along the journey, they've had plenty of hardships. Not only including what they're fleeing from home, but some who have been extorted by corrupt officials," Patrick Giuliani, communication specialist and policy lead at Hope Border Institute, said.

According to a statement from the U.S. Border Patrol, the El Paso sector experienced a significant surge over the weekend, with a three-day average of 2,460 daily crossings. Most of them have been from Nicaragua, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. The average was 2,150 since the beginning of December and between 1,700 and 1,800 per day in November.

City officials with El Paso said the influx of migrants impacts the area all around. Their small airport and bus system will already be busy with holiday travel, and arranging same-day travel for migrants will be difficult. Shelters and nonprofit organizations are hitting capacity during the winter months.

"Cold weather, snow flurries overnight. Our normal static homeless population is looking for a place to get into, and we're utilizing those shelters for migrants as well. So it does put that added strain," Mario D'Agostino, El Paso's deputy city manager for public safety, said.

However, responding to migrant surges is nothing new for agencies in the area, and it's something elected officials feel like they're better prepared for after past influxes.

Robert Cortinas, who is El Paso's chief financial officer, said in a media conference call Tuesday that the city has spent approximately $9.5 million in relation to the migrant crisis since July. They've received $2 million in funding upfront from FEMA and received word that an additional $3.8 million will be awarded in the future.

WATCH: How Houston's helping decompress border crossings before Title 42 end

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said a crucial part of handling this situation is collaborating and coordinating with surrounding NGOs and municipalities on decompression. He told ABC13 that each day, about 50 migrants are being transported to the Houston area.

"They (migrants) are able to get their flights almost 65 to 75% cheaper. We had one example of a migrant going from El Paso to Atlanta. It was about $800. But flying out of Houston, it was $125. When you make a call to their sponsor, the chance that they're going to pay for the (migrant's) flight is much higher when the cost is lower. We can move people out a lot quicker that way," Samaniego said.

READ ALSO: Surge in border crossings may send some migrants to Harris County courts

Giuliani said advocacy groups like the Hope Border Institute are coordinating with community organizations to find spaces where they can open temporary housing for migrants, whether it's gyms or churches. They're also collecting necessities such as winter clothing and food for those who are under provision releases, helping them fund transportation to their destinations, and contacting family and friends throughout the country.

On Monday, the El Paso County commission approved $1 million to the local rescue mission to provide more beds in the meantime. Commissioner David Stout said that currently, the Department of Homeland Security is releasing upwards of 1,000 people a day. The county is handling about 600 daily transfers of migrants and outsourcing personnel for their operations. But they anticipate that the demand will just grow with the end of Title 42.

"We are in the process of looking for a larger facility because we know that Title 42 may end here soon, and we want to be ready for that. We've submitted requests to FEMA, to the federal government for $32 million for the next year to chiefly cover the cost of the operations at the processing center as well as increased shelter capacity," Stout said.

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