(The Center Square) – With an infusion of $26.5 million in federal money over the past six months, the city of El Paso and its partners have orchestrated a way to provide a range of free services for foreign nationals and transportation out of the city to other Democratic-run cities, primarily New York City and Chicago, at taxpayers’ expense.
Instead of denying entry and processing illegal foreign nationals for deportation, the Biden administration has instructed Border Patrol agents to release them into the U.S., with some exceptions. Last August, 250 a day were released into El Paso; by September, over 1,000 a day; by the week of April 23 of this year, 3,685 were released. Previous weekly release totals ranged between 1,093 and 1,541. The majority being released are single adults.
Those who are released to city shelters are “provided food, water, access to free WiFi” and assistance with coordinating transportation primarily to New York City or Chicago.
City officials are coordinating “with officials and NGOs in New York City and Chicago to coordinate transportation [there] as these are the most common destinations of choice for the migrants,” it says.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot have said their cities can no longer handle the influx of foreign nationals and also have asked the federal government for financial help.
People arriving are coming “from all parts of the world to escape economic devastation and extreme crime,” the city states on its “migrant crisis” website. However, according to federal asylum law, neither economic devastation nor extreme crime are generally considered valid asylum claims. Application of the law fluctuates depending on the administration. In 2018, for example, Attorney General Jeff Sessions determined that “generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum.”
In fiscal 2019, only 16% of asylum applicants without legal representation and 33% with legal representation received asylum or relief from being deported, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC. In FY 2020, 18%, and 31%, respectively, in the same categories received asylum or protection from deportation, according to TRAC data.
Because of a new DHS policy, the U.S. is releasing 30,000 people a month into the U.S. from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti, or 120,000 total, through its expanded parole policy.
The majority of the record number of people being released do not likely qualify for asylum, Florid Attorney General Ashley Moody and others have argued. Being released into the U.S. simply by filing an asylum claim is unlawful, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, multiple members of Congress and federal judges have said. Abbott said on Monday, “The cartels are working in collaboration with President Biden and the federal government to facilitate that illegals cross the border” and the administration is creating a “catastrophic disaster.”
El Paso officials say they’re prioritizing “the individual migrant” during a “dynamic situation.”
People arriving in El Paso are coming primarily from Venezuela, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Cuba, according to city data. The number of Venezuelans has fluctuated between 50% and 90% of all arrivals.
Because of sheer volume, those being released are being given Notice To Appear documents to go to an immigration court hearing scheduled in 2026 and beyond. Some are given Warrants to Appear, meaning they must show up at their court date in three years. Others are being released on their own recognizance, a Border Patrol agent told to The Center Square.
So far, the city has chartered buses to transport 13,972 foreign nationals to New York City and Chicago, with the majority, 10,713, having gone to New York City. The city of El Paso has also provided 402 meals a day to those being bused.
El Paso has helped 5,069 illegal foreign nationals with travel assistance to get to New York City and Chicago either by air or by train, according to city data.
The city “migrant welcome center” has served 19,329 people as of May and remains focused on assisting the migrants passing through our community.” Officials don’t intend for them to stay in El Paso but to help them “transit through El Paso and help them arrive at their destination of choice.”
To do so, the city is partnering with county officials, El Paso Independent School District and several nonprofits, including Annunciation House, the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Foodbank, United Way, the Opportunity Center, Sin Fronteras, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, among others.
The city is being reimbursed for its costs through FEMA. It received nearly $3.8 million as partial reimbursement for its third-quarter July-September 2022 expenses, for example, out of a request of $5.13 million, according to city data.
Last December, FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program’s National Board approved over $10 million for expenses. Not all of the $26.5 million has been spent, the city’s mayor said earlier this month. But as more people arrive and aren’t deported, costs will continue to increase in El Paso and in other cities receiving them.