El Paso, a Texas city on the border with Mexico, has been experiencing many difficulties in recent months in managing the arrivals of migrants crossing the southern border of the United States. In the summer months, arrivals in the country almost doubled, going from around 4,900 per day in April to the current 9,000. According to the mayor, Democrat Oscar Leeser, the city is “close to the breaking point.”
El Paso is one of the major centers affected by the great increase in migratory flows from Mexico, which for migrants is often only the last stage of a longer journey that passes through many countries in South and Central America. San Diego in California and Eagle Pass in Texas are two other cities experiencing a similar situation.
According to data provided by the local administration, the city of El Paso currently manages over 2000 arrivals per day, compared to the 300-400 that were the norm until a couple of months ago: the majority of migrants are Venezuelan nationals, two thirds they are single men, the rest are families, with 2 percent of unaccompanied minors. At the moment the city has a single shelter for migrants and homeless people that can accommodate up to 400 people, but in the last ten days the authorities have had to find accommodation for thousands of people.
Five buses were organized on Saturday to transfer some of the migrants to New York, Chicago and Denver. In recent years some Republican governors had made similar choices, forcibly sending migrants to states governed by Democrats, but in this case Mayor Lesser specified that the transfers were agreed upon, were implemented on a voluntary basis and that the migrants were able to choose the destination.
The emergency situation in El Paso is not only a local issue, but has also become a political case on a national level. The Biden administration in May launched new measures to manage the immigration issue. It had favored the stabilization of some of the migrants already present in the country (specifically allowing 500,000 Venezuelans to obtain a residence permit for two years) and had established a quota of “agreed crossings” of the border, to prevent migrants from doing so independently , risking their lives in the desert or crossing the Rio Grande River.
Currently, you can book an appointment for an agreed and supervised border crossing with an app. Once they enter the United States, the procedures remain the same: asylum requests are examined (a legal process that can take years), while migrants who are not eligible are repatriated. The new regulations in fact provide for migrants who cross the border illegally immediate repatriation and a ban on entry into the United States for the following five years.
The large numbers of arrivals in recent weeks are making it increasingly complex to operate these forced repatriations, which occur rather randomly, based on the availability of flights and the choices of the border authorities. Those who are not returned remain in the country without a permit, often with a court date scheduled months later. Even the appointments on the app, which have reached 43,000 in a month, are not enough to satisfy all requests, and some migrants decide not to wait and to attempt the crossing independently or by paying traffickers.
The increase in entries does not have a single explanation: a strong component is linked to the persistent economic crisis in Venezuela, but the origins of the migrants are varied and an increase in people coming from Africa has also been reported. The authorities of Panama, a Central American state which is an obligatory passage on the route arriving from South America, have said they expect that by the end of the year there will be 500 thousand migrants entering the country, double compared to 2022.
– Read also: The problem of migrants using freight trains in Mexico to get to the United States