Dec 17 (Reuters) – The mayor of the Texas border city of El Paso declared a state of emergency on Saturday, citing hundreds of migrants sleeping on the streets in frigid temperatures and thousands being arrested each day.
Mayor Oscar Leiser, a Democrat, said the emergency declaration would give city officials the resources and ability to shelter migrants crossing the Mexican border.
“We wanted to make sure people were treated with dignity. We wanted to make sure everyone was safe,” Leiser told reporters.
The move comes as El Paso, a Democratic stronghold with a history of welcoming immigrants, has struggled in recent months to cope with tens of thousands of migrants crossing the border into Mexico. Dec. The city is bracing for a surge in migrant arrivals after a US judge ordered an end to the Covid-19 border restrictions, known as Title 42, by the 21st.
Under President Joe Biden, a Democrat who takes office in January 2021, large numbers of migrants have been caught crossing the US-Mexico border, prompting attacks from Republican opponents who support tougher policies.
U.S. border agents have encountered an average of more than 2,400 migrants a day along a 268-mile stretch of the border known as the El Paso sector in the past week, a 40% increase from October, according to figures released by the city.
Although government officials have moved migrants from El Paso to other U.S. cities, local shelters are beyond capacity and migrants are sleeping on the streets as temperatures drop below freezing.
Mario D’Agostino, El Paso’s deputy city manager, said the emergency declaration will give the city more transportation options for bus evacuees to other destinations and more help from state law enforcement.
As migrant arrivals surged in late August, the city launched a bus program that ferried nearly 14,000 migrants to New York and Chicago, many Venezuelans said arriving without American sponsors.
The city halted the program in October when the Biden administration began deporting Venezuelans to Mexico under Title 42, but D’Agostino said Thursday that it could resume if Venezuelans are allowed back into El Paso.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Friday attempted to intervene in a case holding Title 42 by a group of U.S. states with a Republican attorney general. States can appeal to the US Supreme Court.
Reporting by Tim Reed and Ted Hessen Editing by Chris Reese and Michael Perry
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