El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser declared a state of emergency Saturday in response to the worsening immigration crisis, which has left scores of migrants sleeping on the streets in recent days.
Though Leeser has long resisted issuing a state of emergency declaration, he said Saturday the move would allow the city to tap into much-needed additional resources, which will become necessary with the Dec. 21 end to Title 42 expulsions, the Trump-era policy that permits Customs and Border Protection to expel migrants without the usual legal review. The policy, which was enacted during the pandemic, allowed migrants to be sent back to Mexico or their home countries to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities.
Leeser said the sight of people on downtown streets with temperatures dipping below freezing was the catalyst for the decision.
“That’s not the way we want to treat people,” Leeser said during a news conference Saturday evening.
He added that the increase of migrants would be “incredible” after Wednesday, when daily apprehensions and street releases could rise as high as 6,000 per day.
El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said the state of emergency declaration would give the city more flexibility in operating larger sheltering operations and provide additional transportation for arriving asylum seekers.
The city has requested additional personnel for feeding and housing operations, additional busing operations and state law enforcement.
“It’s for the safety of themselves… community members and everyone involved,” D’Agostino said.
As numbers of migrants continue to ramp up, D’Agostino said, additional state resources will be crucial to ensure there is enough space to shelter those who cannot get out of town immediately.
“We want to make sure we’re prepared for that and we can react to that, so this is just the next step to make sure we’re prepared,” D’Agostino said.
The mayor was out on the streets of downtown El Paso Friday night and early Saturday morning when it became apparent additional measures would be necessary to deal with the influx. He spent most of Saturday in conference calls with county, state and federal counterparts, setting the stage for the emergency declaration.
Among those he said have been “instrumental” in working with state officials is Texas State Sen. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, who said in a statement Saturday that “the situation has superseded our local governments’ capacity and with Title 42 set to expire next week, the demand for resources is elevated.”
“I support the city of El Paso’s Declaration of Disaster to activate a whole-of-government approach to addressing this unprecedented crisis,” he added.