EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Overwhelmed by the continuous arrival of migrants deemed ineligible for expulsion, federal authorities in El Paso are flying hundreds to other cities daily for processing.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said five to six daily flights carrying migrants are leaving the city’s airport for processing centers in San Diego, Phoenix, and Laredo and Del Rio, Texas. The strategy is part of efforts to avoid last month’s release of migrant families onto the streets of El Paso when processing centers and shelters were full.
“Our goal is to never have anybody out on the streets. It’s not good for the community. The community gets a little upset, tourism can get hurt, economic development gets hurt, so it behooves us to make sure that we process people properly and get them where they need to be as quick as possible,” Samaniego said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Thursday confirmed three to five “decompression” flights are departing the city with unprocessed migrants. Federal officials said the flights have become a tool to reduce overcrowding at front-line processing facilities not built or staffed to handle the volume of migrants crossing the Rio Grande from Juarez, Mexico, and surrendering to Border Patrol agents at the border wall.
Border agents in September apprehended an average of 1,633 migrants per day, or about 49,800 for the month – a record for the El Paso Sector. About 40 percent (20,000) of those were Venezuelan nationals. Some of those Venezuelans have told Border Report they left their country because the Nicolas Maduro regime has driven the economy to the ground and those who don’t agree with him are kept away from good jobs. Some said they had been living in Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador before deciding to head to the U.S.
Samaniego said volume has increased during the first days of October, with up to 2,000 migrant apprehensions per day. To put that in context, El Paso is getting in one week the same number of migrants that gathered in Del Rio, Texas, in September 2021, leading to a humanitarian crisis that dominated newspaper headlines worldwide.
It may take one to three days for eligible migrants, such as asylum-seekers that demonstrate credible fear, to be released from federal custody with a notice to appear in court. That means they must stay in custody at least temporarily. The Border Patrol says it is averaging 3,200 people in custody at its Central Processing Center. The facility was built to hold around 1,000 migrants.
The agency has opened a temporary processing site a few feet from the border wall west of Downtown El Paso, and is working with nonprofit shelters, city and county governments to manage the overcrowding.
“The El Paso Sector is also mitigating high capacity of migrants in holding via decompression flights of unprocessed migrants to other sectors in an effort to assist the Central Processing Center with the processing of migrants,” the Border Patrol said in a statement to Border Report.
The agency did not immediately disclose the exact number of migrants on the flights. Such numbers vary daily.
Samaniego said he expects El Paso to increase out-of-town processing of migrants detained here.
“One of the bittersweets of (Border Patrol) Chief (Gloria) Chavez leaving is that she’s now going to let us know, ‘Hey, we have space here, we can accommodate more.’ We feel very good. We might not have space here; she might have space over there. The decompression is the key to everything that we’re doing,” Samaniego said.
Chavez this month will be taking over as chief patrol agent of the Rio Grande Valley Sector that includes McAllen, Harlingen and Brownsville, Texas.