EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a developing story and will be updated as warranted.
EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso is set to receive two daily flights from the Rio Grande Valley carrying 135 would-be refugees each starting on Monday, a local nonprofit says.
That’s a total of 270 migrants per day in addition to the 50 daily asylum-seekers returning from Juarez after being taken out of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program.
But while the MPP participants must pass a COVID-19 test in Juarez before coming over to the United States, the migrants who will be flying in from South Texas will have to be tested at El Paso shelters after they come in.
“We will set up to test them at our site,” said Ruben Garcia, executive director of Annunciation House in El Paso, which will be temporarily housing the new arrivals.
Garcia previously said the nonprofit’s largest shelter could house up to 300 migrants at any one time, so now “we are making plans to open our first hotel.”
El Paso and other border cities not in South Texas have been expelling newly arrived unauthorized migrants back to Mexico under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order. That includes families with small children, who often are taken by Mexican immigration agents to shelters.
Garcia said nonprofits in the Rio Grande Valley are overwhelmed with the new arrivals, hence their transfer to El Paso. However, he doesn’t know if this is a unique situation or if the policy of releasing newly arrived families with children under 6 years old will change and possibly extend to El Paso.
“From the perspective of an organization like Annunciation House it is very important to get an answer to that because, as we plan what the next weeks or months are going to look like, it would let us know that we could conceivable see something similar happen here on our border,” Garcia said.
The nonprofit director said Annunciation House receives the support from a network of churches, organizations and individuals. “The El Paso community is an extremely generous and conscientious community. As a result, we are able to do this in a very smooth way,” he said, adding that migrants typically stay one to four days in the city and leave when their relatives, friends or sponsors send them money for a bus or airplane ticket.
Border Report and KTSM reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and are awaiting a response.