EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Hundreds of people in Juarez, Mexico, on Monday crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso on foot, in hopes of requesting political asylum.
Many of the migrants – mostly adults and some children – told a KTSM/Border Report camera crew they were Venezuelan citizens fleeing a bad economy and political oppression against the middle class in their country. Some of the migrants said they arrived in Juarez over the weekend but weren’t willing to share much detail about their trip or if someone assisted them during the journey.
On Saturday and Sunday, groups of up to 200 migrants walked across the dry riverbed into El Paso, Texas and surrendered to the U.S. Border Patrol, according to witnesses. Some observers estimated Monday morning’s group at between 300 and 400.
“Over the weekend, we still experienced the average of more than 1,100 daily encounters,” the Border Patrol said in a statement. “We can confirm that a large group of migrants was encountered this morning. We can also confirm that we have experienced an increase and shift toward a demographic of migrants that are not amenable to Title 42 expulsion.”
The mass crossing takes place just as El Paso finds its immigration holding facilities and its nonprofit migrant shelters at or above capacity.
On Monday, Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino told the El Paso City Council that U.S. immigration agencies likely would continue releasing migrants on parole in the city. The releases are of migrants having stated asylum claims and been issued notices to appear in court later likely will continue.
Mayor Oscar Leeser said there’s a “gap” between the 800 or so migrants that local shelters and nonprofits can assist each day and the average of 1,400 Border Patrol apprehensions. The city is assisting migrants released onto the streets of El Paso by routing them to available shelters, putting them in hotel rooms for the night and procuring transportation for those who don’t have a U.S. sponsor who will buy them a bus or airplane ticket.
The city is billing the federal government for reimbursement.
El Paso city officials and U.S. Border Patrol officials say they need to continue “decompression” efforts to prevent large migrant releases in El Paso. The Border Patrol since Wednesday has released more than 900 paroled migrants on city streets.
D’Agostino said the city is trying to adapt to the challenge by helping move migrants out of the city in a safe and humane manner so as to free up shelter space.
One of El Paso’s main challenges is its limited airplane flights and commercial bus capacity, as well as its relative isolation from major cities, including the places the migrants on parole want to go. Less than 1 percent of the migrants want to stay in El Paso, city officials say.
City officials on Monday said their charter busing capacity is limited as well, but that they ensure the participating migrants have a desire to board a bus headed to a particular city and that they are provides meals or snacks along the way.
(Juarez freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado and KTSM’s Andra Litton contributed to this report.)