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El Paso Officials issue a disaster declaration over ongoing migrant crisis

EL PASO, Texas -- El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser announced Saturday afternoon a state of emergency over the ongoing migrant crisis in the El Paso region.

After weeks of refusing, the mayor said he decided to declare the emergency because he believes the asylum seekers are not safe. Hundreds of migrants are in the streets right now after they were released by CBP officials.

"We want to make sure people are treated with dignity and being out in 20 to 25 degree weather is not what we want to see," the mayor said.

The mayor said he was able to visit the area where the migrants are staying in downtown El Paso.

"It started last night, we started looking at our asylum seekers on the streets and you know sitting outside at nights," Mayor Oscar Leeser said.

The mayor said there are ongoing discussions with the county judge, Border Patrol officials and Representative Veronica Escobar.

Mayor Leeser also said that County Judge Ricardo Samaniego was also in agreement with this decision.

Deputy City Manager Mario D'Agostino said with the disaster declaration in place, it will help move people off of the streets. He also said it would bring additional resources to the community.

D'Agostino said this will give officials the flexibility to do more at this time.

The mayor said one of the main reasons why they decided to declare a disaster declaration is because of the lack of shelter space. Mayor Leeser said with this declaration, the region will get state assistance to use towards sheltering.

"In the past there has not been enough shelters to house what we could possibly see in the next few days," D'Agostino said.

All week the deputy city manager was suggesting the mayor to declare a disaster.

"It's by doing this, that it's going to allow us to setup more shelters, that is going to give capacity to our local NGOs and churches to house those who might be waiting here a little longer," D'Agostino said.

Mayor Leeser said he is also talking to officials with the governor of Texas.

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Rosemary Montañez

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