EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The release of thousands of migrants from the custody of immigration agencies is placing a strain on Texas cities and is likely to get worse in months to come, a congressman who represents a big chunk of the U.S.-Mexico border says.
U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, pointed to the recent busing of migrants out of El Paso and Del Rio, Texas, as a clear sign immigration processing centers and migrant advocacy nonprofits are overrun. In El Paso, the U.S. Border Patrol’s Central Processing Center built to accommodate up to 1,000 migrants held 2,400 last week; nonprofit shelters are also at or near capacity following the recent closing of Casa del Refugiado, the largest of such facilities.
The state of Texas has stepped in to relieve the pressure by busing migrants from Del Rio to the East Coast since April, and then briefly from El Paso to New York City.
“This busing is not going to stop; they’re going to expand,” Gonzales told Border Report. “Every city in America is becoming a border city and every city is impacted by it (immigration). No one understands that better than our cities along the border. […] Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the numbers double.”
He wasn’t just referring to the 9,000 migrants the state has transported to New York City and Washington, D.C., but also to the rising number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection encounters/apprehensions since Joe Biden was elected president in November 2020. CBP reports 2.2 million immigration enforcement actions since October 1, compared to 646,833 in all of 2020.
Gonzales attributes the historic spike not just to the perennial high crime and poverty in regions from where migrants traditionally set out to the United States, such as Central America and rural Mexico. He says two other players are exacerbating the crisis.
“The failed policies by (President) Biden are pulling these migrants to the United States. But what’s pushing them are the cartels, setting trade routes from all over the world in order to profit from them. Oftentimes (the cartels) make more money smuggling than they do narcotics,” he said.
Proof of that is the sudden surge of Turkish nationals through the Juarez, Mexico-El Paso, Texas corridor, he said. Neither city has a substantial Turkish community. The same is true when it comes to an Ecuadorian community; apprehensions of Ecuadorian nationals spiked in 2021 here. Prior to that, the region saw a large influx of Brazilians.
Illegal immigration, the ‘new normal’
Gonzales’ district stretches from El Paso’s Far East to the outskirts of San Antonio and to border communities in South Texas such as Eagle Pass and Del Rio. That’s a part of the country that has seen unauthorized migration since people were fleeing the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
A spike in the early 2000s had presidents Vicente Fox of Mexico and George W. Bush talking about immigration reform before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 shut down talks for several years. Gang violence and rumors of easy immigration permits prompted another spike in 2014. The crisis prompted President Obama to request from Congress $1.4 billion in aid for Central America and for policymakers to address “the root causes of migration.”
“This is not a new topic for us, but what we’re seeing is the influx of migrants taking away resources from our firefighters, our Emergency Medical Services, our police, our Border Patrol, our safety and security (funds), and it’s only going to get worse as long as this administration allows this to happen,” Gonzales said.
He said he favors legal migration, but the mixed messages by the Biden administration and the lack of consequence for those who come over illegally and get to stay in the United States indefinitely is encouraging more to come.
“I’d much rather see people coming over legally through a work visa process. We have vacancies all through the United States in various industries, but what’s happening is the Biden administration and House Democrats are encouraging people to come over illegally,” he said. “That is forcing people to live in the shadows, forcing them to continue to be exploited instead of allowing them to be part of the American dream.”
Retaking control of Congress
Gonzales recently brought a delegation of Republican House candidates to El Paso. After touring the border wall and a migrant processing center, the GOP members vowed to take immigration policy in a different direction as soon as their party wrestles control of the House of Representatives from Democrats, as the various national opinion polls suggest they will on Nov. 8.
“The goal is to on Day 1 start governing and changing some things. You are going to see Republicans roll out this Commitment to America,” he said. “That’s securing the border and part of that is the appropriations process. Stone Garden funding has stayed the same for years; it’s time we increase that funding. The other part is enforcing the laws that are on the books.”
Responding to Democrats’ assertion that migration is a normal aspect of American life, Gonzales said that should not be so if it takes away money from taxpayers and results in loss of life for migrants.
“Nothing is normal about taking dead bodies out of the water, if Border Patrol or firefighters or sheriffs see that, it never leaves you. [….] They’re not robots, they’re men and women, mothers and fathers. To see all of this death going on at the border has really changed the agencies,” he said, adding the next Congress will appropriate resources for mental health assistance for first responders.