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El Paso Sector sees rise in migrant crossings, but officials say numbers are still significantly lower than last year

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Recent data from the City of El Paso, as well as recent data from U.S. Border Patrol, indicates a rise in migrant crossings into the region.

While the current numbers are not as high as the El Paso Sector has seen in past surges, a political expert said those numbers could continue to rise, because of the trends the area typically sees this time of year. For example, when temperatures begin to warm up, migrants usually feel more comfortable crossing the border.

But that expert also said the current legal battle over Texas's Senate Bill 4 could potentially have a role to play.

"As our government -- the federal government -- and state governments have this kind of fight and debate over immigration, what it does, is it send signals to those folks that want to cross," said Dr. Richard Pineda, an Associate Professor and the Director of the Sam Donaldson Center for Communication Studies at UTEP. "The argument that's going to be used -- especially by these cartels, and the coyotes, that are bringing people over -- is 'look, they're about to close the fence. They're about to make sure that nobody can come in. You gotta go now.'"

El Paso Border Patrol Officer Claudio Herrera said that's something they're starting to see a rise in.

"We have seen... I will say, like, in the last two weeks, three weeks, small groups of migrants arriving to our Border Safety Initiative Number 36. Those migrants are guided by misinformation through social media, saying that this is the place for them to cross into the country and request asylum. The reality is different. They're just crossing in between the ports of entry, and they're crossing illegally," Herrera said.

Border Patrol told ABC-7, the El Paso Sector is currently seeing a little over 1,000 encounters daily.

The City of El Paso's Migrant Situational Awareness Dashboard also shows a hike. In the second week of January, street releases totaled 2,166. In the following weeks, releases increased slightly, but it wasn't until last week that released reached close to 4,600.

But Herrera said Border Patrol is not too concerned at this point.

"Overall, the encounters here in El Paso Sector have significantly decreased. We're talking about, approximately, a 50% decrease compared to the previous fiscal year, 2023," said Herrera.

Deputy Director for the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, John Martin, said the center's shelters -- as well as those run by other local non-governmental organizations -- have also seen a slight increase recently.

"I think there is a level of concern among all the shelters at this point. And we share the same level of concern. But we're going to continue to operate in the manner that we have for the last 30 years," Martin said. "We're starting to see a few trends going up at this point, but nothing to be concerned with at this time. The numbers seem to be increasing as it relates to the number of encounters -- those currently in custody -- as well as the number of community releases that are being coordinated."

Martin said the NGOs continue to have to meet the basic needs of migrants, and asks for the community's support.

The Opportunity Center accepts donations of food, clothes, and other provisions. They ask that any donations be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. However, arrangements can be made outside those hours by calling ahead at 915-577-0069.

ABC-7 also reached out to the City of El Paso for comment on the rising numbers of crossings, and releases. City spokesperson Laura Cruz Acosta provided the following statement:

"We do not wish to speculate on the pending court ruling at this time. The City of El Paso will continue to prioritize the public health and safety of our community to include our residents and visitors."

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Kerry Mannix


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