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‘It’s not sustainable.’ Migrant surge in El Paso puts strain on shelter system

EL PASO, Texas — A recent increase of immigrants from Venezuela has “changed the game” in El Paso and put a strain on the area’s shelter system, according to County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. 

Border Patrol agents apprehended hundreds of migrants at the southern border in Socorro on Tuesday morning. A majority of them are from Venezuela. Border Patrol says agents are encountering 1,300 people a day since Sept. 1. 

A majority of Venezuelans are first-generation immigrants and arrive in the United States without a sponsor or enough money to buy a bus or plane ticket to their final destination. Shelters have either run out of space or do not have enough volunteers to take in more migrants. Immigration officials have dropped off dozens of migrants on El Paso streets. Those migrants have created makeshift camps across the street from the Greyhound bus station in downtown. 

The city has created a processing center, and the county is working on doing the same thing, but Samaniego says there really are no solutions. 

“I mean, there really isn’t because no matter how much you process, where are they going, and who is going to be taking care of them,” Samaniego says. 

Samaniego explains most Venezuelans want to go to New York City. The city has chartered multiple buses recently to New York City, but that destination may not be an acceptable location for much longer. 

Samaniego says he has met with a representative from the mayor’s office in New York City, and they told him “they can not continue to take what we send them.” 

Another problem is the U.S. government cannot send the Venezuelan migrants back to their home country as they have done before when Haitians surged toward the border in 2021. 

“It’s a federal challenge and it’s on the shoulders of local government. It doesn’t make sense, and we are at another disadvantage and that is the state is not helping us,” Samaniego says. 

"Tip of the iceberg."

Victor Manjarrez, the former border chief of the El Paso sector, says the large groups El Paso has seen in the past few days is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Manjarrez expects there will be multiple large groups apprehended in the same day in the future. 

Tuesday morning, as migrants were being taken away from the border by patrol agents, many thanked President Joe Biden for treating them well. 

“It’s the perception of the administration allowing it to happen. If you look at administrations in the past, you look at resources, the previous administration spoke a tough talk, but when you really looked at the resources, the resources weren’t that much different from what’s currently happening now. The staffing didn’t go up. Yes, there was some border wall being built, but other resources, it was pretty much status quo,” Manjarrez explained.

Article Topic Follows: El Paso

Dylan McKim

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