Dec 18, 2022 - Politics & Policy

El Paso declares emergency ahead of expected migrant influx

People crossing the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 13.

People cross the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 13. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty Images

The mayor of El Paso, Texas, declared a state of emergency Saturday over concerns the city may not be able to manage a major influx of migrants from across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Why it matters: Mayor Oscar Leeser (D) said the city expects to see an increase in migrant arrivals with the ending of the Trump-era Title 42 policy that allowed the U.S. to expel migrants at the southern border without the chance for asylum.

  • Leeser, who previously resisted declaring a state of emergency, said "hundreds and hundreds" are sleeping on the streets in increasingly colder temperatures.

What they're saying: "As we see the increase in asylum seekers into our community, and we see the temperatures dropping and we know that Title 42 — looks like it's going to be called back on Wednesday — we felt it was proper time today to call the state of emergency," Leeser said in a press conference Saturday.

  • "I said from the beginning that I would call it when I felt that either our asylum seekers or our community was not safe, and I really believe that today our asylum seekers are not safe, as we have hundreds and hundreds on the street and that's not the way we want to treat people."
  • "We know the influx on Wednesday will be incredible. It will be huge. Talking to some of our federal partners, they really believe our numbers will go from 2,500 to four, five or maybe six thousand," Leeser said, referring to apprehensions and street releases.

The big picture: The state of emergency declaration will allow the city to tap into additional resources and will allow it to operate expanded larger sheltering operations for migrants in response to dropping temperatures, said El Paso deputy city manager Mario D'Agostino.

  • "It's for the safety of themselves — the migrants passing through our community — community members and everyone involved," D'Agostino said.

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