EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso County is ready to open its migrant processing facility next Monday, as the number of apprehensions and releases continue to rise in the region.
County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said the facility on Lockheed Drive near El Paso International Airport will help paroled migrants who have sponsors or economic resources to move about the country, arrange for transportation.
A separate facility run by the City of El Paso opened last month and will continue to operate, serving primarily paroled migrants who don’t have a sponsor in the U.S. or the resources to move about.
Samaniego said few, if any, of the migrants who have passed through El Paso this year and been released from immigration custody want to stay in this border city. He emphasized the county facility will not duplicate the work being done at the city processing center. “We have the processing center, they have the shelter — they want to say the hotels are shelters, that’s fine — and now they’ve gone more to the transportation side,” Samaniego said on Wednesday as he gave reporters a tour of the county facility.
Both the city and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be channeling the migrants with sponsors or financial resources to the county facility, whose contractor expects to have each incoming migrant moving within two hours.
Private contractor Providencia will staff the facility from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. County officials say they hope to process between 100 to 200 migrants at the start of the operation and, if necessary, expand capacity to 600 per day. The county is expecting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay the county for all migrant care costs.
No one will sleep at the facility; if a migrant cannot purchase a ticket out of town the same day, he or she will be referred to a shelter, though most of the migrants the county expects to serve will have the means to rent a hotel room or have their relatives rent one for them, Samaniego said.
The county facility opens amid a background of rising immigration in the El Paso Sector that includes Far West Texas and the state of New Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol on Tuesday told Border Report that it closed the month of September with a daily average of 1,633 apprehensions, or 48,900 for the month.
Samaniego said federal officials told him the number of migrants coming through El Paso continues to grow.
“Whether you talk to secretary Mayorkas, the (CBP) commissioner, the (Border Patrol) chief in D.C., there is no one is saying that the numbers are going down,” Samaniego said. “What we are doing is we’re being more efficient. How come you had people on the border and now you don’t? We’re becoming more efficient.”
The county judge said federal authorities expect the number of daily migrant apprehensions to increase by 200 “every two or three weeks.”
“If we’re at 1,600, we’re going to go to 1,800. We know that for a fact. But like I’ve always said, we (local authorities) don’t manage the crisis of the coming, we manage the process of them being able to reach their destination,” Samaniego said. “We know the numbers are high — we’ve been hitting 2,000 apprehensions. There’s more people now at the detention center than we’ve had before, up to 4,700 this morning. We’re doing the overflow and getting (temporary) tents to help us out … a lot of moving parts.”
Border Patrol on Thursday said it is averaging 3,200 migrants in custody at its Central Processing Center, though that doesn’t include smaller facilities like stations and its temporary processing center near the border wall.
The county’s center will welcome released migrants with a COVID-19 rapid test. Those who test positive will be given an N-95 facemask and separated from the rest of the incoming migrants. They will still be able to make their travel arrangements from that space. Meantime, the rest will go to a waiting area, get food and sanitation packs from the Salvation Army and be directed to laptops where they can purchase bus or airplane tickets.
Samaniego said New York City and Chicago have been popular destinations so far, particularly for the Venezuelan migrants. Border Patrol estimates some 20,000 Venezuelans arrived in El Paso in September alone.
Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the University of Texas at El Paso Center for Law and Human Behavior and a former Border Patrol Chief in El Paso and Tucson, Arizona, said the continued historic spike in unauthorized migrant entries don’t surprise him.
“The number doesn’t surprise me. The number will surely continue to rise at a higher rate than even (the Border Patrol) estimates,” Manjarrez said. “There is no resolution in sight because the dynamics haven’t changed. There is no consequence for those entries. The more success they (the migrants) see by making an entry and released into the United States, the more they are going to tell their family and friends.”