Mayor Oscar Leeser (D) of the Texas border city of El Paso declared a state of emergency over the weekend, citing hundreds of migrants sleeping outside in the cold and thousands apprehended daily.
At a news conference Saturday, Leeser said he anticipated a massive influx of migrants when a court-ordered deadline to end Title 42 occurs.
“We know the influx on Wednesday will be incredible. It will be huge. Talking to some of our federal partners, they really believe our numbers will go from 2,500 to four, five or maybe six thousand,” Leeser said, referring to apprehensions and street releases.
Title 42 is a clause from the 1944 public health code that allows the government to take emergency action to stop the “introduction of communicable diseases” into the U.S., but it had been rarely used until the Trump Administration implemented it as an immigration policy when the Covid pandemic struck. The Biden Administration continued its use, invoking it to expel migrants roughly 2 million times, although many were repeat border-crossers.
In November, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled the Title 42 policy unlawful, calling it “arbitrary and capricious.” He gave the Biden Administration a five-week delay—until this Wednesday—before the policy expired so the Administration could move additional resources to the border and coordinate with state and local governments and non-profits.
In August the city of El Paso had launched a program to bus its increasing influx of migrants to New York and Chicago. It sent some 14,000 migrants north before halting the program in October—when the Biden Administration started expelling Venezuelan migrants under Title 42.
El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said the busing could begin again if Venezuelans are once more allowed to cross over from Mexico into his city.
In the meantime, D’Agostino said the emergency declaration will allow El Paso to tap into additional resources and to operate expanded sheltering operations for migrants in response to dropping temperatures.
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), whose Congressional district includes El Paso, said on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “has been extraordinary in our community.” However, she added that “far more robust support” was needed from the State Department to address the refugee crisis in the Western Hemisphere because “unfortunately Congress has failed to act on our very outdated immigration laws for decades.”