El Paso, the city of migrant camps, has a long road to a better life: A pastor’s advice on emergency shelter beds
The city of El Paso has been trying to open emergency shelter beds as quickly as they can, but only some of the migrants fit that criteria.
A social worker burst into tears after apologizing to the mother of three children who is seven months pregnant, as she couldn’t stop watering her eyes.
The pastor of El Paso said he expects more people to try to cross the border. “Brace yourself. It’s coming,” he said. There is a wave of people looking for a better life.
More than 2,500 people have arrived in El Paso each day in the past week, city officials said, warning that the number is expected to double after the federal policy is lifted.
Misael Aguilera: An Immigrant Survivor of a Breakdown Immigration Law in the United States and the Mexican-American Border
The mayor said that we can’t continue to go on with a broken immigration system. “It’s bigger than the United States. I have to work with UN and countries around us to be able to fix it.
The controversial order was set to end December 21 but remains in legal limbo after the Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday allowing the policy to remain in effect while legal challenges play out – a process that could stretch out for at least several months.
“We have a responsibility to meet at this moment,” said Marisa Limón Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, a local nonprofit that provides legal services to immigrants.
“It (crisis) requires all of us to encourage our elected officials to do more and to really take a stance in this regard. It’s not something that we can just turn away from, we don’t have that luxury. She stated that “this is a phenomenon that people in the US need to know about.”
CNN spoke with people on both sides of the US-Mexico border about how difficult it has been for migrant families after fleeing poverty and gang violence in their home countries.
When health restrictions are lifted, El Paso is expected to see a surge of migrants. As temperatures dipped below freezing, the city of El Paso declared a state of emergency after migrants overloading area shelters led to an alarming increase in people sleeping on the streets.
For the past week, Misael Aguilera has waited outside the Greyhound station hoping to embark on the final 8-hour bus drive that will reunite him with his brother in Central Texas.
The 35-year-old is unable to afford a bus ticket since he spent more than two months travelling from Peru to El Paso. He arrived at the border with only his clothes on.
“Traveling to Mexico was horrible, it’s an experience that I won’t be able to forget — something that marked me for life,” Aguilera said about being robbed, hearing about kidnappings and seeing people losing their lives.
Aguilera, who used to work as a clinical nurse specialist in his native Cuba, keeps himself busy by keeping the makeshift camp outside the downtown bus station somewhat organized and clean. He and others collect the larger blankets that are left behind by people on the bus and save them for those who will arrive at any given time.
We’re trying to keep it neat. It is necessary to make sure trash is being picked up so we can feel safe.
Diaz, Carlos and Esther in El Paso, a friend and fellow citizen of the Los Alamos de La Habana Libertad
Others near the Greyhound station are Diaz, her family and her sister’s family. A total of 11 people, including adults and their toddler to teenage children, have been in El Paso for about a week, unable to afford bus tickets for each of them.
Afraid of being separated, they spent most of the night on the street after shelters refused to take all of them or denied them entry because they didn’t have travel itineraries out of El Paso. There have been countless times when Diaz’s husband Carlos Pavón Flores, can only hold their daughter Esther in his arms, in silence. If nothing, he’d like to keep her warm.
Daniel Banda tends to a once-quiet convenience store and gas station near the edge of downtown El Paso. The building is next to a bus station and two blocks away from a Greyhound station which is where many migrants will find food and water after they are released from Border Patrol custody.
And the 20-year-old, who used to spend his days solely cleaning and restocking shelves, might be the first El Paso resident who is not a government official that many migrants encounter.
Some people want to know if the store will exchange pesos for dollars if they sell Sim cards, if they have access to a restroom or if they can buy clothes in a store that sells clothes in dollars. At times, the constant traffic could be hectic, Banda says, but he understands the precarious situation migrants are experiencing.
“I come from a modest background and my family has taught me to help in any way I can,” Banda said. “And they are very respectful people, very respectful. They are good people, even better than some locals.”
The Opportunity Center for the Homeless: Helping a Family of Migrants at a Mexican Store Close to a Border Gate
People are camping on the sidewalk close to the store. In the past two months, the number of people in the area has increased considerably, he says. Some have been sleeping there for nearly a week while others arrived no more than a day ago.
Because Banda talks with his family about his interactions with migrants at the store, his mother has started collecting blankets to give to those in need.
A group of 25 men who had just been let go from immigration custody at the doorstep of a shelter in El Paso, Texas, were greeted by staff who rushed to pick up intake forms and pens.
The shelter, which can comfortably accommodate 100 to 120, was housing 190 people earlier this week — a record number in the nearly 29 years ago since the Opportunity Center for the Homeless was established, Martin said. Martin said that they do not want to say no to anyone.
Dozens of people working for various groups have stepped up to help migrants who are close to their breaking point, including Martin and his staff.
In a news release, city officials said they had identified “mass shelter facilities” to accommodate 1,000 to 2,000 people and would provide essential services such as food, bathrooms, showers, toiletries and transportation. The Red Cross will also be on hand to help as needed, city officials said. The city’s airport is also serving as a shelter for migrants who have airplane tickets to other destinations in the United States, the officials said.
El Paso Crossings a Migrant Story Rej-cnn Photographs from a Church Shelter in Ciudad Jurez
We may get 30 on their way and all of a sudden, I have 50 that come in behind them. We’re never going to be able to catch up at this rate,” Martin said.
As the days pass and the number of migrants continues increasing, Martin is unsure of the shelter’s future and says he worries they would have to make a decision that goes against the shelter’s very own mission.
The Opportunity Center is going to come to a point, and I’m not sure if we have the space to handle it, within the next day or two. We’re going to have to say no.
Shelter capacity has quickly been reached across the border in Ciudad Jurez, thanks to the recent opening of new facilities. The shelters serve as a point of convergence between people who have been temporarily living in this border city for months after seeking asylum in the US and being expelled into Mexico, and those who reached the border in the past weeks and are waiting for the end of Title 42 expulsions.
Matamoros and her family have lived in a church shelter for nearly six months. In Honduras, she had found success selling used plus-size clothing while her husband operated a car shop — but gang violence, extortion and threats made them fear for their and their children’s lives, the 28-year-old mother says.
Matamoros hopes she’ll be able to enter the US with the help of a sponsor after going through some phases of desperation and shame.
“You ask yourself why other people are crossing and you are not, why others have that opportunity and why there are people who waste their chances when there’s people like us who are at risk,” Matamoros says.
El Paso Crossings a Migrant Story Reaj-CNN Photos: Joseph Matamoros Reached the South Side of the Rio Grande Banks
Families who traveled from other parts of Mexico, Guatemala and Ukraine spent the day at the shelter arranging chairs, hanging up Christmas lights and cooking food for a posada, a Mexican Christmas tradition that involves the re-enactment of Joseph and Mary’s search for a room in Bethlehem. Matamoros says it will make her two sons laugh and forget about everything that’s happened during their journey.
“I want this to end soon. I want a stable home for my children so they go to school, have a normal life, go to bed whenever they want and play or watch TV. I want them to not suffer anymore.
When he reached the south side of the Rio Grande banks, he put down a metal tray and took off his socks prior to picking it up again. He got out of the water, and then stepped on some rocks to land in the US without dropping his tray.
He’s repeated this ordeal dozens of times a day, carrying pizza boxes, packs of water bottles and more knowing he can’t go further into the US because of his nationality.
The 30-year-old Venezuelan has been selling food and water to the migrants lining up close to the border wall in El Paso. The Biden administration started applying Title 42 to Venezuela in October when they were previously exempt.
“It’s our turn to simply wait and see what happens with us (Venezuelans). In the meantime, we work on this side of the border to survive,” said Sanchez Mendez, who has been in Juárez for about a week waiting for the end of Title 42.
The Importance of Border Security Rule Restrictions on a Socially Assimilated Black Hole in El Paso, Texas
He spends his day walking and yelling at people to sell him water bottles he bought with his friends. They say “buscar la moneda” to eat and one day will travel up North so they can make some money.
As a growing number of migrants arrive in the border city of El Paso, Texas, officials there say the situation is “unsustainable” and could intensify into a full-blown crisis.
Many of the arriving migrants have told reporters they’re from Nicaragua. Some have said they were victims of kidnapping before making it to the border.
Blake Barrow, chief executive director of Rescue Mission of El Paso, said the need is greater than anything he’s seen in 25 years running the homeless shelter.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. … Barrow told CNN they weren’t built for that type of situation. We have all these people in need of us and we’re doing everything we can.
Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino told reporters in recent days about 2,500 migrants have crossed the border daily, noting that the situation is different than past surges of migrants across the border.
Before, he said, increases in migrant populations crossing the border were gradual and over a series of months. He said that this time it was rapid and over a few days.
The Department of Homeland Security says that some criminal organizations are behind the recent influx to the region.
Texas said it was sending 400 National Guard personnel to the border city after local officials declared a state of emergency. The declaration was to protect vulnerable migrants, but the Texas National Guard said in a statement that the deployment included “repel and turn-back illegal immigrants.”
“I do not want these initiatives to turn into policing simply because of political overtures or political opportunities,” said Ricardo Samaniego, the El Paso county judge. He was told the show of force was a drill and that it was not clear how long the group would be at the border.
The debate over the use of the Title 42 restrictions has highlighted the difficulties in making good on the promise of border policies that are both humane and secure. As officials have struggled to respond to historic levels of migration, they have at times been criticized by immigration advocates for relying too heavily on Trump-era policies.
At the same time, Mr. Biden and his team have been under intense fire from Republicans, who accuse the administration of being too lenient at the border. Republicans will be in control of the House next year, and they want to investigate Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security.
An El Paso Chamber of Commerce’s Reopening of the San Diego Pedestrian Crossing with a Pandemic-Era Border Restrictions
Texas dispatched National Guard troops to the border, while San Diego businesses expected a rush of Christmas shoppers from Mexico as tens of thousands of asylum-seekers at the border wait for a Supreme Court decision.
The U.S. government asked the Supreme Court not to lift the limits before Christmas, in a filing a day after Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary order to keep the pandemic-era restrictions in place. Before Roberts issued that order, they had been slated to expire Wednesday.
The reason that some migrants are allowed into the U.S. while others are turned away has to do with the pandemic border restrictions known as Title 42. Since March of 2020, those restrictions have allowed immigration authorities to quickly expel migrants from Mexico and northern Central America.
Conservative-leaning states appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that an increased numbers of migrants would take a toll on public services such as law enforcement and health care and warned of an “unprecedented calamity” at the southern border. The federal government has no plans to deal with an increase in migrants.
At a church-affiliated shelter in El Paso a few blocks from the border, the Rev. Michael Gallagher said local faith leaders have been trying to pool resources and open up empty space. On Tuesday, a gym at Sacred Heart Church gave shelter to 200 migrants — mostly women and children.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the decision of Roberts, a sense of normal returned to San Diego. The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce said it learned from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the more modern, western half of the airport-sized pedestrian crossing would reopen to U.S.-bound travelers Wednesday at 6 a.m. The lanes, which lead to an upscale outlet mall, have been closed to almost all migrants since early 2020 to accommodate Title 42 processing.
The reopening is in time for last-minute shoppers, visiting family members and those working during the holiday season, according to the chamber. It didn’t know when the area would reopen to travelers that were from the United States.
On the Effects of the Border Patrol on Immigration in El Paso, California, during the Biden era and the U.S. Supreme Court Decision
The Biden administration had argued in the US Supreme Court that immigration could not be solved indefinitely with a public-health measure that had outlived its usefulness.
“We’re not permitted inside the shelter because we crossed without permission,” said a woman named Adda. We’re not using her last name, or those of other migrants who entered the U.S. without detection. Adda traveled with seven family members, including her pregnant daughter, to El Paso.
“We wanted to make sure that we were able to get everyone who was on the street off the streets before this cold weather hits,” said Mario D’Agostino, the deputy city manager in El Paso.
The buses are going to pick up people and bring them to the convention center in order to free up space.
On Thursday, the sidewalks near the Greyhound bus station were lined with blankets as migrants tried to keep warm.
The emergency shelter is a block away from the city’s convention center and police officers on bikes encouraged migrants to go there. But many of the migrants who were still on the street had not turned themselves into the Border Patrol.
A Guatemalan-American woman and her four children cross the border without a trace of home: Gabriela and Jean-Carlos and their journey in the Darien Gap jungle
Mexico does not allow it to take back migrants from Cuba and some other countries. Until recently, Venezuelan migrants were also exempt — but now they too can be expelled to Mexico under Title 42.
“We didn’t turn ourselves into the Border Patrol for fear they would send us back after all we’ve suffered to get here,” says a woman named Gabriela. She and her husband Jean-Carlos crossed undetected with their four young children this week.
Hoarse from being out in the cold, she described their journey from Venezuela, and how they were separated for a time in the dangerous Darien Gap jungle in Panama.
Mexico was the most difficult part of their two-month journey. The family said Mexican border authorities mistreated them, detaining them and stealing their personal belongings. They said they witnessed children being kidnapped off the streets into random vehicles. The family continued their journey because of the added protection.
Three days before the Texas National Guard descended upon the northern bank of the Rio Grande, the group arrived in Ciudad Jurez. They watched troops spill out of a parade of Humvees and uncoil reams of razor wire. Wilfor said the sight was unnerving as he was a part of the group.
Despite that rumor, the group took their chance at crossing Tuesday night. They chose a location that involved traversing an irrigation canal. They crawled through a hole and ran across six lanes of a highway at 60 miles per hour.
The future for migrants waiting in El Paso, Texas, after crossing the US-Mexico border remains uncertain following the Supreme Court’s Wednesday decision that allows federal officials to continue expelling migrants before they have received an asylum hearing.
They won’t give us the opportunity to cross legally. We wanted to be able to cross legally, but you can’t.
Towards a plan for handling a potential wave of undocumented immigrants should the lower court’s decision to end Title 42
The Supreme Court should intervene and block the lower court’s decision to end the policy. The court placed the order on hold and said it would take up the state’s appeal during the upcoming term.
The executive director of Hope Border Institute warned on Tuesday that the Supreme Court decision would cause a lot of problems and lead to more deaths at the border.
While Title 42 still remains in effect as legal challenges play out in court, El Paso is developing a plan for handling a potential surge of migrants should Title 42 be terminated, Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said Tuesday.
“Some people talk about 10,000 to 15,000 people waiting in (Ciudad) Juarez to cross over. If those were to come all in a relatively short time frame, space would be difficult. D’Agostino said transportation would be difficult.
Migrants will be housed in two empty schools in the city. He said that one will be ready to use within a few days, while the second won’t be changed for a few weeks.
Cruz-Acosta says the city is unable to accommodate migrants who don’t have documentation from Customs and Border Protection.
She said they would be connected with Customs and Border Protection if they showed up at the government-run shelters.
Two local NGOs who are accepting undocumented immigrants in their shelters told CNN last week that their facilities are overcrowded, leaving them to close their doors to many seeking shelter even as temperatures dipped dangerously low over the weekend.
El Paso and Juarez: A Connection Between the Silicon Valley and the U.S., the Border, and the Dreams of President Biden
Republicans have been hounding President Biden for more than a year to travel to the southern border and see the situation there with his own eyes. “I guess I should go down,” he conceded in a town hall meeting with CNN in October 2021, but he explained that he had been too busy to make the trip. Fox News criticized Mr. Biden when he went to visit the site for a computer chipmanufacturing plant in Arizona, but not the southern border.
I know how it works. It doesn’t make sense to spotlight a problem when there is no solution to it. But Mr. Biden is arriving with a plan. It involves extending the pathway to people from other countries, like Haiti and Cuba. If they pass a background check and have friends or relatives who will sponsor them, they will be allowed to apply for parole, which will allow them to remain in the United States for two years.
Editor’s Note: Peter Svarzbein, the son of immigrants and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, is a visual artist, curator and former two-term El Paso city councilman. Sister Cities International is a citizen diplomacy nonprofit in the US. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. You can also give your opinion on CNN.
What El Paso and Juarez can do more than any other place in this world is show how we can live together. Through the success of the international streetcar line, we have seen how our students, families, businesses and culture can mix and interact. Our chance, our destiny and our opportunity not just today, but every day for generations to come. This is something few understand unless you have had the fortune of living here.
It instilled in me a respect for other people and led me to understand that the border is not a threat, but an opportunity and a blessing for people in both the US and Mexico.
Many Americans see the border differently, and outsiders often show their fantasies and nightmares onto the community without thinking about our reality or how they could affect us. Politicians have described the arrival of migrants as an “invasion,” and stoked fears of violence, drug trafficking and crime.
In 2019, fronterizos (people of the border), El Pasoans and our brothers and sisters in Juarez were among the 23 people killed at a Walmart by a suspected gunman who wrote about a “Hispanic invasion” in a hateful online manifesto, according to police.
Unfortunately, government officials at both the state and federal levels have continued to fuel a broken immigration system and perpetuate damaging myths about the border and those who cross it. Local governments and organizations were often overwhelmed with the need for shelter, transportation and other resources, and could have used more federal support.
And when we have a broken immigration system, our community is at the front doorstep of those seeking a better or safer life from the south – an Ellis Island of the Southwest. Our response to immigration as a community in El Paso, one built on a foundation of compassion and responsibility, shows a different vision of what the border is and can be.
Some may think that we are in the middle of nowhere. The center of North America is comprised of the crossroads of modern and ancient highways. About 17% of all trade between the United States and Mexico occurs in this region, day after day.
Opportunities, both economic and cultural, are something that our city council has prioritized. Economically, we focused on opportunities for increased trade by supporting a public-private program, which uses city tax dollars to pay Customs and Border Patrol agents overtime to keep more lanes open during peak times on our bridges. Tens of thousands of pedestrians cross over our bridges each month, and our shops and stores are filled with people spending their dollars. This is true today and has been the case for decades.
We celebrate our unique binational identity. In 2018, El Paso re-started an electric streetcar service in uptown and downtown El Paso. Utilizing the same art-deco designed streetcars that used to travel between both cities until 1974, it brought back memories for many families on both sides of the border while helping to usher hundreds of millions of dollars of private sector investment, including several new hotels in downtown El Paso since the streetcar opened.
Our community is a big help when it comes to opportunity and education. Of the 24,000 students at the University of Texas El Paso, 84% are Hispanic and 48% of all graduates are first generation college students. Many of them are Mexican nationals who cross the border hours before sunrise to go to school. UT-El Paso is one of the leading Hispanic-serving universities in the United States, and it currently has the only bilingual creative writing MFA program in the world.
I hope the House Oversight Committee is aware of the huge trade flows between the United States and Mexico. I hope they know that El Paso has a large population of immigrants and first generation Americans. and yet we are consistently ranked one of the safest big cities in the United States.