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El Paso struggles to respond to growing number of migrants arriving on the border

Migrants camped out on El Paso streets
Angela Kocherga
/
KTEP News
A group of migrant women and children are among those on the streets in downtown El Paso. They're waiting for transportation to other parts of the United States.

The large number of migrants arriving daily continues to grow along with efforts in El Paso to respond the humanitarian crisis.

EL PASO – The number of migrants arriving along this stretch of border continues to grow along with efforts to respond the humanitarian crisis

Border Patrol agents are taking at least 13 hundred migrants a day into custody in El Paso with the number nearing 2000 one day according to officials with the city of El Paso.

Hundreds of those screened and released to await their immigration hearings have had to sleep on the streets because shelters are at capacity.

The majority are from Venezuela and have no relatives or other sponsors in the United States.

“I’m only coming here with my wife and

four-year-old daughter,” said a young father. He declined to give his because his mother remains back in Venezuela.

“There is no dream, there’s nothing,” the 27-year-old said of his homeland. He said the “harsh dictatorship” has crushed the dreams of young people in his country.

The part-time student and street vender says he hopes to build a new life in the United States. “We left with a positive attitude and the drive to work and get ahead.”

His immediate need is to find shelter and a bus ride to Houston. He was among a group of migrants standing on the sidewalk where they’d been dropped off by border patrol the day before near the Greyhound bus station.

Venezuelan parents with child downtown El Paso
Angela Kocherga
/
KTEP News
Young parents with their daughter are among hundreds of migrants from Venezuela arriving in El Paso. They have no relatives in the U.S. El Paso residents donated supplies to the family and other stranded migrants.

Many huddled in patches of shade to escape the midday sun.

Unlike other large waves of migrants from Central America, the Venezuelans cannot be expelled to Mexico or returned to their home country.

The United States suspended its diplomatic relationship with Venezuela in 2019 and cannot easily coordinate repatriation flights.

The city of El Paso opened a “welcome center” in a warehouse last week to help coordinate temporary shelter and transportation for stranded migrants.

The City Council declared an emergency humanitarian crisis last week and approved a $2 million contract through December with Dallas-based Gogo Charters to provide up to 5 buses per day.

Since August 23, El Paso’s Office of Emergency Management has chartered at least 28 buses to New York City, the “preferred destination for those without any means to travel,” according to an update from the city of El Paso.

El Paso County is working to convert a building near the county coliseum used for roller derby and other events into a temporary shelter.

Both the city and county prefer to be reimbursed by the federal government rather than seek help from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who has made busing migrants to cities run by Democrats a part of his Operation Lone Star border response.

The high-profile policy is seen by many leaders in this largely Democratic community as a “political stunt” by the Republican governor who is campaigning for reelection.

“We need humanitarian assistance, not political exploitation,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. “Our goal is to treat migrants with humanity and dignity.”

El Paso residents are doing what they can to help showing up with water, burritos, pizza, and other supplies for migrants sleeping on the streets.

Juliana Esparza, a volunteer with Adopt-a-Mom, packed her van with strollers, diapers, and other supplies for young children.

Adopt-a-Mom El Paso is a non profit organization of moms helping moms including migrant parents
Angela Kocherga
/
KTEP News
Juliana Esparza, a volunteer with the non-profit Adopt-a-Mom, filled her van with strollers and other supplies for stranded migrant families. The El Paso organization of moms helping moms has been delivering donated items to migrants on the street waiting to depart from the border city.

The non-profit started as a support group for mothers with kids at home remote learning during the pandemic, “And then it quickly turned into community outreach. Because the moms just have such an enduring capacity to give back to the community,” Esparza said.

She and other mothers helping mothers rely on donations to buy supplies for parents.

“We don’t get any big donations: moms doing raffles, donating ten dollars,” she said.

The organization recently raised money for parents in Uvalde according to Esparza. “Motherhood connects you.”

Cielo Rivas, 21, was among a group of women from Nicaragua on the streets of El Paso.

“We’re sisters and cousins,” she said. A couple mothers with small children.

They were waiting for one more relative in their group of nine to be released from Border Patrol custody and then planned to catch a bus to Houston.

They had been sleeping on a sidewalk in downtown El Paso for five nights but were grateful for the help from residents in this border city.

“We are blessed,” Rivas said.

Alfredo Corchado, Mexico Border Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News contributed to this story.