El Paso declares emergency as looming end of Title 42 drives border surge

December 20, 2022

The Biden administration doesn't see any crisis happening at the southern border, but the city of El Paso, Texas, has officially called the massive influx of immigrants an "emergency" as residents struggle to cope with the burden. 

Democrat mayor Oscar Leeser warned that as many as 20,000 immigrants are waiting to cross from Mexico once the Trump-era Title 42 policy is lifted, the New York Post reported.

El Paso braces for impact

The anticipated end of the policy has already drawn a massive immigrant caravan to El Paso, the epicenter of Biden's border crisis. The El Paso sector of the border had 50,000 immigrant encounters in October alone, a nearly 300 percent increase year-to-year.

The city is releasing over 600 immigrants into the community every day, according to a dashboard officials set up to track the crisis, which has already cost the city over $9 million.

After resisting pressure to call an emergency, Mayor Leeser reversed course Saturday, citing the freezing temperatures on the streets, where many immigrants are sleeping.

"We wanted to make sure people are treated with dignity. We want to make sure everyone is safe," Leeser said.

Supreme Court brings relief

El Paso received some small reprieve Monday when the Supreme Court granted an emergency request to delay the end of Title 42, which had been due to expire Wednesday. The public health order has been used to rapidly expel immigrants without a chance to claim asylum since its enactment in 2020.

Leeser warned that a large group of 20,000 immigrants is waiting in Ciudad Juarez, across the border in Mexico, to cross over once Title 42 expires.

"We’ve been talking to some of the partners in Mexico, and we’re talking also to the Border Patrol and those are the numbers that have been fed back to us,” he said.

In the meantime, Leeser said the city will prepare for a post-Title 42 situation regardless of what the courts decide.

"We’re preparing like Title 42 will no longer be in existence and we want to make sure that our community and asylum seekers are all safe,” Leeser said.

Border city scrambling

El Paso has been scrambling to bus and fly the overflow of immigrants, hundreds of whom have been staying at El Paso's only airport overnight, out of town to major cities across the country, which is kind of like fighting a flood with a pail.

“The fact of the matter is, there’s not enough flights out of our airport,” Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said.

Lesser said the city is considering housing immigrants in any and all of El Paso's public buildings, including schools.

"No facility in the city will be taken off consideration," he said.

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