EL PASO, Texas (KXAN) — The City of El Paso has sent almost as many migrants by bus to cities outside the state this year as the operation launched by the Texas governor has, according to new numbers released Monday.
As of Monday morning, El Paso reported charter buses organized by the city ferried 11,197 migrants to Chicago and New York this year alone — with 2,441 going to Chicago and the other 8,756 to New York. That’s according to data posted on the city’s recently launched migrant situational awareness dashboard, which tracks various ways the city is working with and keeping track of migrants there.
In comparison, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday the state has now bused more than 12,300 migrants to what he called sanctuary cities in the northeast. Of those, he said more than 8,200 have gone to Washington, D.C.; 3,200 to New York City and 920 to Chicago. A spokesperson for the Texas Division of Emergency Management said the state has so far paid more than $18 million to transport migrants processed and released by the federal government to the three cities.
“#OperationLoneStar is helping small border towns by busing migrants to sanctuary cities that can support them,” Abbott tweeted Monday morning.
El Paso city leaders opened their own “migrant welcome center” in August, which essentially serves as a hub for migrants to go to first after they’re processed rather than to a local shelter. The city’s website said this operation helps provide “food and water, connectivity, transportation assistance, and temporary shelter if needed.” The city’s numbers reveal the total number of migrants served at that welcome center stands at 15,465 now.
“Most of [the migrants] already have somewhere they want to go. They either have a family member, or they have a community they want to reach out to,” Enrique Dueñas, a spokesperson for the El Paso Office of Emergency Management, said. “We’ve been asking them about this, and most of them have been saying New York and Chicago.”
Last week New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a state of emergency to help handle an influx of asylum-seekers arriving by bus from Texas and other states who are estimated to have increased the number of people in the city’s shelters to a record high. He even asked El Paso to drop New York as a destination for its separate busing operation.
“In El Paso, the city manager, the mayor — they should stop sending buses to New York,” Adams said Friday during a news conference. “New York cannot accommodate the number of buses that we have coming here to our city.”
Crews are now working in New York City to finish building large tents that will eventually house hundreds of people who made their way there.
Impact on El Paso nonprofits
Local nonprofits, like the Rescue Mission of El Paso, credit the work the City of El Paso is doing, though, for helping to ease the burden on shelter space and resources they faced last month.
“I think it’s helped all the shelters in the city to kind of catch their breath a little bit and figure out what to do,” Nicole Reulet, the Rescue Mission’s marketing director, said. “I wish we knew what the plan was overall if once they reach capacity in the buildings that they’ve opened up, they’ll need extra shelter from us. I wish we knew that information, but we don’t. So we’re just standing by, and we’re ready to go.”
At the beginning of September, Reulet said buses kept dropping off migrants, mostly from Venezuela, outside the organization’s doors after they finished getting processed at the border. Over the span of several weeks, she said the Rescue Mission helped more than 400 migrants, but that’s down now to a more manageable amount of 40 or so since the city’s operation began.
“If we can service and minister to these people and love on them throughout one of the roughest journeys of their lifetimes,” Reulet said, “then that’s an honor for us and a privilege for sure. As American citizens, it’s a privilege.”
While the shelter had limited bed space for a while, Reulet said the Rescue Mission experienced a surge in donations not just from El Paso.
“We had a gentleman in California that asked what we needed, and we told him we needed shoes. He went and bought, I think, 10 pairs of new shoes and had them mailed to us,” she said. “So people are calling us, asking what we need and responding to that need for sure, which is a huge help to us. Especially with the winter months coming up, we don’t know how long the migrant situation is going to play out, but it’s definitely a help for sure.”
The Rescue Mission is now in need of more clothing donations, particularly men’s shoes and children’s items. If someone’s interested in donating to the nonprofit, visit the organization’s website here.