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El Pasoans start petition opposing city’s possible use of a Northeast recreational facility to house migrants

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- As El Pasoans are starting to see more migrants crossing the border into their community, some are pushing back against plans the city announced Friday.

According to El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, preventing street releases is currently one of the city's major goals, but he said it's not going to be easy.

"At some point we will run out of capacity. And we do have 400 rooms that are allocated for that," said Leeser in a press conference Friday.

One of those locations is Nations Tobin Park Recreational Center in Northeast El Paso, home to a variety of local sports leagues.

Krystal Shea and Araceli Villarreal are the President and Vice President of El Paso Roller Derby, respectively. Their league practices at Nations Tobin.

They said they were notified that the facility would likely be used to house migrants as well as a cooling center during their practice Friday, something Shea believes was very last-minute.

She says it puts their league in a difficult position.

"With us losing our practices, or our practice space, it's really going to put a hold on us training, preparing for these teams that we're going to be playing against," she said.

And they said they're not the only ones affected, referencing several others sports leagues that practice and host games at Nations Tobin.

"Everybody's affected. Not just roller derby," said Villarreal. "Not having that ability to practice, or to get better, or to have that outlet, definitely is going to put a toll."

Shea and Villarreal say they've signed a petition set up to protest against the use of Nations Tobin as a shelter and cooling center.

The petition -- which Shea says was created by a member of the Nations Tobin inline hockey team -- strongly opposes the use of the center for migrant operations, reading in part, "This decision poses a significant threat to our mental health and violates our rights as Americans."

The petition already has over 200 signatures.

And being a recreational center, Nations Tobin welcomes community members each and everyday. As some locals enjoyed the nice weather at the center on Saturday, they reflected on the news.

One man visiting Nations Tobin Saturday said he's okay with the move: "As long as the place, the gyms, the parks, are not being overtaken to where we can't participate in this," said Paul Gonzales.

The city has not confirmed to ABC-7 whether the recreational center will remain open to the public or not during the time it is used for immigration operations. However, Shea did say that her and the El Paso Roller Derby league were told they would not be able to practice in the facility as operations were active.

She said they are being reimbursed for any costs they had already paid for, such as time allotted to the team for practices.

Shea said for the time being, the league is looking for another place to practice. They are struggling to find somewhere with 108 x 75 square feet of open space, and are asking anyone that may know of a place where they could practice temporarily, to contact them via their website.

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Kerry Mannix


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