Officials in El Paso, Texas, discontinued this week the practice of transporting migrants to New York City and Chicago by bus, citing a new Biden administration policy designed to deter Venezuelan migrants from crossing the southern border illegally, a city spokesperson told CBS News.
Laura Cruz-Acosta, the El Paso spokesperson, said the Democratic-led Texas city had stopped chartering buses of migrants to the northern cities, an effort it started this summer to reduce overcrowding in its shelter system, which was overwhelmed by a sharp increase in Venezuelan migrants released from U.S. border custody.
Migrant arrivals, however, have decreased since the Biden administration announced last week that it would expel Venezuelan migrants who entered the country illegally to Mexico, while opening a legal pathway for a limited number of Venezuelans to come to a U.S. airport if they have a U.S.-based sponsor, Cruz-Acosta said.
Due to the policies unveiled last week and the subsequent decrease in migrant arrivals to El Paso, Cruz-Acosta added, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “discontinued sending migrants to the City this week.” Beyond halting its busing effort, El Paso on Thursday closed a reception center it had opened to accommodate migrant families released by federal border officials and allowed to seek U.S. asylum.
In a statement on Thursday, El Paso mayor Oscar Leeser, a Democrat, said the city was able to avert declaring a state of emergency over the migrant influx due to collaboration with the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, nonprofits, the local county and officials in Congress. He said the city was “positioned to stand up our operations as needed” in the event of any changes.
“Everyone worked together within their scope toward the same goals: decompression efforts, policies to lower the number of asylum seekers reaching our border and treating every individual as each one of us would like to be treated, with dignity and respect,” Leeser said.
El Paso’s decision to suspend its migrant busing effort will likely be welcomed by officials in New York City, where mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency over the arrival of thousands of migrants transported from the U.S. southern border. New York has scrambled to place migrants in city homeless shelters, repurposed hotels and a newly opened tent facility on Randall’s Island.
Since launching the busing effort on Aug. 23, El Paso transported 10,713 migrants to New York and 3,259 to Chicago, according to city statistics.
El Paso’s move, however, will not affect separate efforts by Republican state officials in Texas and Arizona, who have been sending migrants to certain Democratic-led cities to protest the Biden administration’s handling of the record migrant apprehensions reported along the southern border over the past year.
Under an operation authorized this spring by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, Texas has bused thousands of migrants to Washington, D.C., New York City and Chicago. Arizona state officials have also been transporting migrants to Washington, D.C.
In fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30, federal officials along the southern border processed migrants over 2 million times, a tally that includes 1 million expulsions and a high rate of repeat crossings by the same individuals, CBP data show.
One of the factors driving the record levels of migrant apprehensions is the unprecedented number of Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans who have reached the U.S. border over the past year. The U.S. has struggled to deport migrants from these countries due to strained diplomatic relations with the governments there.
Last week, however, the U.S. announced it had convinced Mexico to accept the return of some Venezuelan migrants under Title 42, Trump-era public health order that allows border officials to quickly expel border-crossers without allowing them to request asylum.
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