Despite a recent Biden Administration policy to reduce the number of Venezuelan migrant crossings along the southwest border, shelters and federal detention facility overcrowding is forcing the new arrivals onto El Paso’s streets. Those with the financial means to travel freely are sent to a downtown commercial bus depot. Meanwhile, local officials have paused dedicated buses to Chicago and New York City until federal reimbursements are met.
Despite the reduction in crossings by migrants from Venezuela, those from Nicaragua, Cuba, and a host of other countries have led El Paso to the forefront of border sectors for apprehensions.
El Paso jumped ahead of the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio Sectors to become the busiest of the nine southwest regions in October, according to a source within CBP. El Paso agents apprehended approximately 53,000 during the month, up from 14,000 in October 2021.
According to a report by El Paso Matters, 600 migrants were released by the Border Patrol onto the streets of El Paso between Friday and Monday. Private shelters in the city were unable to accommodate the releases, according to the report.
A statement released by the Border Patrol acknowledged the releases: “The decision to provisionally release migrants was determined after exhausting all other decompression options for the custody of migrants found in our sector.” The term “decompression” has been used by DHS agencies, including the Border Patrol, to describe migrant releases into the United States in lieu of detention or removal.
Some migrant releases will be directed to a private bussing company, according to a CBS News affiliate report. Tornado Bus will accept migrants who have funds to pay for transportation directly from the Border Patrol.
In late October, the City of El Paso suspended operations at a City-funded welcome center which provided bus services to select sanctuary cities. During the 44-day span of operation since September, the welcome center aided more than 19,000 migrants, according to an official dashboard. The tool is used to track activities related to migrant services and expenses incurred by the City.
According to the dashboard, nearly 14,000 migrants were provided free transportation to the interior of the United States.
During a recent El Paso City Council meeting, Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino briefed members on the expenditures incurred as a result of providing services. More than $8 million has been spent on housing, food, and transportation services for the migrants since July. Thus far, the city has been reimbursed $2 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Food and Shelter Program, but awaits another $6 million in repayments.
In March, the FEMA Food and Shelter Program allocated $110 million to reimburse communities for released migrant expenses.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.