Car seats on sidewalk, sleeping bags on ground: Scenes from El Paso's illegal migrant crisis
El Paso’s Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser declared a state of emergency Saturday, saying the flow of illegal migrants was no longer sustainable.
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Blanketed babies in car seats on the sidewalk. People laying in blankets and sleeping bags on the ground. Hundreds pouring into downtown El Paso at a time. In November alone, more than 53,500 illegal foreign nationals were apprehended, and an additional 24,000 who evaded capture by law enforcement in the Customs and Border Patrol sector that includes El Paso.
El Paso’s Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser declared a state of emergency Saturday, saying once the public health authority Title 42 is lifted, illegal entries will increase from 2,400 to 6,000 a day. When he asked the federal government if it could handle the volume of illegal entries, the response he got was, “no,” he said at a recent news conference.
“That’s when I realized we needed to do something and right away,” he said.
Declaring a state of emergency prompts a legal response by the state, meaning more Texas taxpayer dollars will be on the hook to help the border town of nearly 900,000 residents.
Illegal foreign nationals who were apprehended and evaded capture in November alone in the El Paso Sector, which includes all of New Mexico and two west Texas counties, including El Paso, was greater than the individual populations of all but four New Mexico cities and all but five of its counties, according to Census data analyzed by The Center Square.
Despite Title 42 enforcing being temporarily left in place by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, a Border Patrol agent at the southern border in Texas told The Center Square, “Looking at current numbers, it is projected that El Paso Sector will apprehend over 60,000 illegal aliens in December. This is before Title 42 ends. It will also be another record gotaways month.” The agent spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino began the city’s busing strategy in August, first sending nine to 14 busloads of people a day from El Paso to New York City. In October, New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency, blaming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Abbott said Adams' criticism was misdirected, arguing President Joe Biden created a humanitarian crisis and a crime and drug epidemic at the border and in American cities.
He said at the time, "Sanctuary cities like New York City experience a fraction of what Texas border communities face every day.” Texas will continue to bus people north, he said, “to relieve our overwhelmed border towns until Biden does his job to secure the border."
As of Dec. 16, Texas bused more than 8,600 people to Washington, D.C., since April; over 4,200 to New York City since Aug. 5; more than 1,400 to Chicago since Aug. 31; and more than 380 to Philadelphia since Nov. 15.
Through Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, law enforcement officers are aggressively pursuing Mexican cartel and gang-related criminal activity emboldened by Biden administration policies, Abbott argues.
As of Dec. 16, they’ve apprehended more than 333,000 illegal foreign nationals and made more than 22,000 criminal arrests, with more than 20,000 felony charges reported. DPS officers have seized more than 354 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than the entire population of America.
“Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps left by the Biden Administration's refusal to secure the border,” Abbott said. “Every individual who is apprehended or arrested and every ounce of drugs seized would have otherwise made their way into communities across Texas and the nation due to President Biden's open border policies.”
In response to the humanitarian crisis in El Paso, Abbott directed the Texas National Guard to deploy more resources. On Monday, it activated and deployed airlift assets from the 136th Airlift Wing in Fort Worth to El Paso. Four C-130J cargo aircraft moved 400 soldiers and equipment there Monday afternoon.
Their deployment includes a Security Response Force composed of elements of the 606th Military Police Battalion, the Texas Military Department said, “trained in Civil Disturbance Operations and Mass Migration Response, used to safeguard the border and repel and turn-back illegal immigrants."
Since November 2021, 6,128 Texas National Guardsmen and women have been placed along the Texas-Mexico border; another 3,700 are also deployed elsewhere as part of OLS. There are also 1,600 state troopers at the border working with hundreds of officers from local sheriff’s offices and police departments thwarting cartel and gang-related criminal activity stemming from the border, also through OLS.
The legislature initially allocated $3 billion to OLS efforts and has since allocated more.
“While Biden abandons his duty to defend America, Texas is taking unprecedented action to decrease the influx of dangerous criminals, illegal weapons, and deadly drugs into the U.S.,” Abbott said.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas maintains that “the border is secure” and the administration is committed to overseeing a “safe and orderly process.”
Biden has yet to visit the border since he’s been in office, most recently arguing he “has better things to do.” He also has not responded to any invitations from Abbott or Democratic officials to visit the border. He also has not responded to Abbott’s request to declare two Mexican cartels as foreign terrorist organizations or to increase border security to stop the record amounts of illicit fentanyl being brought in through the southern border.