Despite a recent Biden administration policy to reduce the number of Venezuelan migrant crossings along the southwest border, overcrowding in shelters and federal detention centers is forcing newcomers onto the streets of El Paso. Those with the financial means to travel freely are sent to a downtown commercial bus depot. Meanwhile, local officials have suspended dedicated buses in Chicago and New York until federal refunds are paid.
Despite reduced crossings by migrants from Venezuela, those from Nicaragua, Cuba and a host of other countries have driven El Paso to the top of the border sectors for apprehensions.
El Paso overtook the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio areas to become the busiest of the nine southwest regions in October, according to a CBP source. El Paso officers apprehended about 53,000 people during the month, up from 14,000 in October 2021.
According to a report by El Paso Matters, 600 migrants were released by 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 issued by Border Patrol acknowledged the releases: “The decision to provisionally release the migrants was made after exhausting all other decompression options for the custody of migrants found in our area.” The term “decompression” has been used by DHS agencies, including Border Patrol, to describe releases of migrants to the United States in lieu of detention or deportation.
Some migrant releases will be directed to a private bus company, according to a CBS News affiliate report. Tornado Bus will accept migrants who have funds to pay for transportation directly from Border Patrol.
In late October, the city of El Paso suspended operations of a city-funded visitor center that provided bus service to some sanctuary cities. In the 44 days of operation since September, the reception center has helped more than 19,000 migrants, according to an official dashboard. The tool is used to track activities related to migrant services and expenditure incurred by the City.
According to the dashboard, nearly 14,000 migrants received free transportation to the interior of the United States.
During a recent meeting of the El Paso City Council, Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino updated members on expenses incurred as a result of providing services. More than $8 million has been spent on housing, food and transportation services for migrants since July. So far, the city has been reimbursed $2 million by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) food and shelter program, but is still awaiting $6 million in reimbursement.
In March, the FEMA Food and Shelter Program allocated $110 million to reimburse communities for the expenses of released migrants.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief of Law Enforcement Operations, directing the operations of nine Border Patrol posts in the Del Rio, Texas area. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.