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Texas border cities declare states of emergency ahead of public health order ending next week

 Migrants stand near the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez in December in this photo from the Associated Press.
The Associated Press
Migrants stand near the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Juarez in December in this photo from the Associated Press.

The declarations came as migrants are camped out just across the Rio Grande in anticipation of the end of Title 42. After three years of allowing for rapid expulsions, the policy will be lifted May 11.

The leaders of El Paso, Laredo and Brownsville over the weekend issued separate emergency declarations as a public health order is set to expire next week. Title 42, a policy initiated in March 2020 by the Trump administration, comes to an end May 11. The policy allowed federal agents to immediately expel migrants back to Mexico.

“We’re getting prepared now for what we call the unknown. And the unknown is what will happen after May 11,” El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said during a news conference Sunday when he announced the emergency declaration. “As you’ve seen, we’re starting to pick up some momentum as asylum seekers are around the streets of downtown El Paso and other areas of our community.”

“[We need] to make sure that we can stand up and be prepared for May 11 and May 12 to have public shelter, public housing,” he added.

Leeser said he visited Ciudad Juarez on Friday and saw firsthand migrants camping out in the Mexican city and packing into shelters in anticipation of the lift. Mayor Leeser tried to reassure the public the border wasn’t going to be wide open next week, pointing to Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announcement last week that most asylum seekers could still be sent back to Mexico under federal laws.

“[The migrants] have come in, really, with a false pretense that there will be open borders stating on May 11,” Leeser said.

Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector encountered more than 265,000 undocumented immigrants from October 2022 through March, according to CBP statistics.

Laredo Mayor Dr. Victor Treviño said in a statement that his city’s disaster declaration was part of reaching a balance as Laredo also expects an increase in crossings.

“As the Mayor of a border community, we understand our local immigration challenges are intertwined with our bi-national challenges involving immigration reform. With this in mind, it’s imperative that we protect the City of Laredo’s limited resources while balancing the treatment and services available to incoming immigrants,” he said. “Therefore, the Emergency Declaration is necessary in light of previous experiences and the current and imminent rise of immigrants arriving at our southern border with the expiration of Title 42.”

Downriver in Brownsville, the two major holding facilities used to detain and process migrants have exceeded capacity, Texas Public radio reported. More than 15,000 migrants crossed the Mexican state of Tamaulipas into the Brownsville area last week alone, according to TPR. The Associated Press also reported over the weekend that a Brownsville police spokesperson said the city has never experienced such a large influx before.

The emergency declaration in El Paso follows a separate order issued in December after the city saw a large influx of South and Central American immigrants. Several hundred were forced to sleep on the streets as El Paso’s shelters became overwhelmed.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.