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Texas mayor says migration crisis reaches 'breaking point' in El Paso

A Venezuelan man seeking asylum crosses the US-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, early on September 23, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of refugees and migrants are continuing to cross the United States border from Mexico, overwhelming the city of El Paso in the state of Texas, and leaving President Joe Biden’s administration scrambling to stem the influx of people.

"The city of El Paso only has so many resources and we have come to ... a breaking point right now," Mayor Oscar Leeser said at a news conference on Saturday.

His remarks came as nearly 9,000 people made the crossing on Saturday, according to officials, marking one of the highest rates of arrivals in recent months.

Leeser said more than 2,000 people were seeking asylum in the city per day, up from 350-400 as recently as six weeks ago, straining resources and filling up shelters.

The overwhelming majority of migrants are fleeing Venezuela, contributing to the larger wave of migrants who have undertaken dangerous journeys. They often rely on buses and cargo trains to reach Mexican border towns near San Diego, California, as well as the Texan cities of El Paso and Eagle Pass.

The number of people seeking asylum in the US had plummeted in recent months, following the announcement of new restrictions in May, but the recent dramatic increase has put the Biden administration on its heels again. The city of Eagle Pass has declared a state of emergency to deal with the influx, while democratic mayors and governors are seeking more relief for hosting asylum seekers and Republicans are seizing on the issue ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

During the press conference, Leeser announced that El Paso is taking measures to address the crisis by planning to open a new shelter.

In a bid to alleviate the strain on local resources, the city chartered five buses on Saturday to transport migrants to cities like New York, Chicago, and Denver.

Criticism has been directed at Republican governors in Texas and Florida for relocating migrants to cities often seen as politically liberal, such as New York and Sacramento. However, Lesser, a Democrat, clarified that all migrants traveling on the El Paso buses had willingly chosen their respective destinations.

He said the city has collaborated with the US Border Patrol to offer accommodation for 6,500 individuals in the last 10 days. He added about two-thirds of those entering El Paso are single men, while around 32% are families and just 2% are unaccompanied children.

With tensions rising in Texas, the Biden administration has sent 800 troops to the border, adding to the 2,500 National Guard members there. It has also attempted to stem the migratory flow through special programs to process asylum and visa requests in migrants’ home countries, pledging consequences for those who do not follow the rules, including deportations and expulsions.

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