Like most border cities, El Paso has tried to have as little involvement as possible in caring for migrants who come and go daily. Federal authorities arrested people who entered the U.S. illegally, while nonprofits have helped those who needed assistance before traveling to their final destination elsewhere in the U.S. Local officials say they have been forced to change course, the Wall Street Journal reports. The number of migrants released on El Paso’s streets has been at or near record levels for most of the past year, and more are poor parents and children with few resources. Existing shelters don’t have enough capacity, and migrants have slept on the streets around a downtown church and at the airport.
El Paso officials have concluded that the situation, which would have previously seemed extreme, is their new normal. The city spent $3.8 million to buy a decommissioned middle school it is turning into an emergency shelter for migrants with nowhere else to go. “I never thought it would get to this, to what we’re doing,” said Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino. Many border communities, including San Diego, have said the number of migrants being released on their streets has reached crisis levels and are asking the Biden administration for assistance. El Paso is the only major border city that has built a public shelter for migrants. The rest offer logistical and financial support to nonprofits, which El Paso is continuing to do. Some cities far from the border, including New York have longstanding public-shelter systems that have filled with newly arrived migrants. That has led to intraparty fights between Democrats like New York Mayor Eric Adams and the Biden administration over who should bear the cost. During the federal fiscal year that ended in September, federal border agents made about 427,000 arrests around El Paso, a nearly 40% increase from the prior fiscal year.