Officials in El Paso, Texas, are scrambling to move migrants, including young children, off the streets and into shelters as temperatures sink below freezing, according to news reports.
The Red Cross, the local Catholic diocese, the HOPE Border Institute and other nongovernment agencies are working to set up emergency shelter operations and work with hotels to house the migrants. Some hospitality sites are preparing holiday meals and religious services, reports Axios.
“Everybody’s working as quickly as possible to make sure that those facilities are available,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, told the news outlet.
Hundreds of migrants have had to sleep on the streets because of space issues in the city’s shelters and churches. A sharp increase in migrant arrivals has also added to the problem, leading Mayor Oscar Leeser last week to declare a state of emergency and request additional resources and support from the state.
El Paso, located along the U.S.-Mexico border, has encountered an average of 1,500 migrant crossings per day, according to the Department of Homeland Security. City data shows 12,800 Border Patrol encounters in El Paso in the past seven days.
City leaders are worried that upwards of 20,000 migrants are waiting in Mexico to cross into El Paso once Title 42, a Trump-era public health policy used more than 2.4 million times since it was first implemented in 2020 to expel asylum-seekers from the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19, expires.
Ruben Garcia, director of the volunteer organization Annunciation House, said he didn’t have the necessary capacity in his shelters.
“No, and we haven’t for a while,” he told ABC News. “We’ve been receiving on a daily basis the [maximum] capacity that is available at our hospitality sites.”
Garcia said that means “significant numbers of refugees [are] spending the night out on the street.”
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