The end of a Trump-era border expulsion policy later this month is expected to jack up migrant border crossings by as much as 40%, El Paso, Texas, officials say.
“Once [migrants] see that it’s happening, more people will come in,” he said during a public meeting.
In El Paso, the policy end would mean the 1,700 daily border crossings could jump up to 2,380 a day. Nationally, as many as 18,000 migrants could daily cross into the US.
The pandemic policy begun during the Trump administration is used by the US Border Patrol to expel about 40% of all border crossers from the US. A federal judge ordered the government to end the policy, but the Biden administration appealed Wednesday, asking to use it in the future — though vowing to stick to the Dec. 21 end date.
The number of migrants crossing the border has exploded during the Biden administration — with a record-shattering 2.4 million people crossing into the US during the 2022 fiscal year.
Since October, El Paso has had more border crossings than anywhere else in the country, according to Border Patrol statistics. Samaniego said El Paso leaders held an emergency planning meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s a matter of going from a managed crisis to potential chaos if we don’t do the right thing,” he said.
The county, which currently operates a migrant center to help asylum-seeking immigrants travel from El Paso to their final destinations in the US, is looking to move into a bigger building to process more migrants. The county is also working with non-profits in Houston and Dallas to move migrants out of the west Texas border city.
The actions are considered necessary to keep endless waves of immigrants out of overwhelmed shelters — or from using the El Paso airport as a makeshift shelter. Sleeping cots at the El Paso International Airport are available to migrants who have a morning flight and less than a 12-hour wait.
Samaniego described El Paso as already being “at a breaking point,” with shelters pushed to capacity and immigrants sleeping on the streets near bus depots.
The city of El Paso largely relies on the federal government to help, saying the border crisis is too big for them to handle.
“Nobody can keep up with that; there is no number of shelters you could have for that, El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino told local station KFOX. “It’s going to take an all-out effort and a lot of that is going to come on the federal government on what they can do to help decompress our region in our area.”
But that help may not be coming any time soon. In Arizona, a sheriff in one overwhelmed county blasted President Biden for refusing to visit the border on his trip to Arizona.
“The commander in chief is solely responsible for this,” Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot told News Nation. “I mean he is the one that says ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ and shame on him for not wanting to engage with the local communities to do what’s right.”
He said his deputies are coming across 900 to 950 migrants a day in a county of only 200,000 people.
Biden traveled to Phoenix on Monday to visit a manufacturing company. When asked why he didn’t visit the border by the press pool, he replied, “Because there are more important things going on. They’re going to invest billions of dollars in a new enterprise.”