News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Texas News

El Paso, Other Border Communities To Receive Migrant Families From Rio Grande Valley

A large warehouse room is filled with green cots, covered with white blankets with the American Red Cross logo.
Mallory Falk
/
KERA News
The sleeping area at Casa del Refugiado, a hospitality site for migrants and refugees run by the El Paso nonprofit Annunciation House.

The federal government is transferring migrant families to El Paso, Laredo and Del Rio to help ease overcrowding at South Texas facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal government is flying migrant families from South Texas to El Paso, to avoid overcrowding at local facilities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The southern border is still closed to most migrants and asylum-seekers under a public health order known as Title 42, but some families have been released into the Rio Grande Valley. Now, hundreds of migrant families are being flown to other parts of the border.

“It appears that the government will be sending migrants — about 270 a day — from South Texas to the community here in the borderlands,” said Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Border Institute, which is part of a coalition dedicated to welcoming and sheltering migrants in the El Paso region.

“These are migrants who have been apprehended at the border and are for the most part asylum seeking families that they’re parolling into the United States,” Corbett said.

As a growing number of migrants and asylum seekers are permitted to cross the border in South Texas, facilities have limited capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It looks like because of their negotiating space needs, because they can’t keep people in congregate settings in a way that would endanger their health because of COVID-19, they’re beginning to shift the populations to different parts of the border,” Corbett said.

El Paso is already receiving 50 asylum-seekers per day who were enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico,” as the Biden administration unwinds that Trump-era policy.

Like the asylum-seekers released from the “Remain in Mexico” program, most migrant families flown to El Paso will stay briefly at a hospitality site run by the nonprofit Annunciation House, before joining relatives or sponsors in other parts of the U.S.

According to El Paso Matters, which first reported on the transfers, the migrants will be tested for COVID-19; those who test positive will stay in hotels the city’s Office of Emergency Management is using for quarantining.

Migrants are also being transferred from the Rio Grande Valley to Laredo and Del Rio.

On Monday, Democratic lawmakers from Texas, including El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott, urging him to accept federal funds that would help border communities test migrants for COVID-19 and quarantine those who test positive.

Abbott has blocked those funds, saying the onus is on the federal government to screen migrants, while simultaneously blaming migrants for spreading COVID-19 in Texas without providing any firm evidence.

“Your recent comments about asylum-seekers carrying COVID-19 into Texas ring hollow when you are the one standing in the way of sorely needed federal resources and ultimately is the same dangerous rhetoric fueling white supremacist attacks on immigrant and minority communities,” the letter reads.

“Instead of spreading xenophobic claims,” it continues, “we urge you to accept these vital FEMA funds localities are relying on and work with the Biden Administration as they continue to look for ways to assist both asylum-seekers and Texans.”

Mallory Falk is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Mallory at Mfalk@kera.org. You can follow Mallory on Twitter @MalloryFalk.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.