Not enough transport outside border towns for migrants crossing in droves
EAGLE PASS, Texas— Airports and bus companies are struggling to meet the transportation needs of southern border towns, strained by the number of migrants released by the Biden administration after crossing the border without permission.
Transportation shortages can mean migrants have nowhere to go during the day or night, imposing new hardships on residents of places like Eagle Pass, the remote Texas border town that has become ground zero for the migration crisis in recent weeks.
“This border problem — it’s a mess. I would describe it as chaos right now,” Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas said. “You have big groups coming. It became normal to see a group of 20 people on Main Street at Dairy Queen’s by the lake. Many of them have been released. They just walk around our town.
Eagle Pass, a town of 29,000 struggling to overcome its reputation as one of the poorest places in America, relies on a single nonprofit to aid migrants and help them to move away from the border. The organization, Mission: Border Hope, was founded by Becky Baxter-Ballou and Bruce Ballou a decade ago to help low-income families, but when migrants started crossing the international bridge to ask asylum several years ago, they began to help meet the hunger, clothing and shelter needs of those entering their community.
“I remember the day it started. Customs showed up with probably 60 people on a bus. We thought, ‘Oh no. What are we going to do? ” Ballou said in a phone call. “They were families. They were kids and dads. We had a lot of moms with their kids. We just couldn’t sit back and not help.
Mission: Border Hope has operated for years from a small church that can accommodate 100 people. But as Border Patrol began apprehending more people crossing over the past year, more people have been released by the organization every day. In recent weeks, more than 500 people have been released daily at Mission: Border Hope.
“Border Patrol – I asked them, ‘What are you going to do with the people you free?’ And they always say, ‘Mayor, if you don’t have [nongovernmental organization], I’ll just drop them off at the gas station,” said Salinas, who is a freelancer. “So it would be even worse, okay, having 500 people who are just on the street.”
“Mission: Border Hope – they get these people. They help them find the bus ticket or a plane ticket and get them out of here,” Salinas continued. “We are for anything that gets people in and out. And these people don’t want to stay at Eagle Pass. They all know where they are going.
Most migrants need a two-hour bus ride to get to San Antonio, either on the day of their release or the day after. However, private companies such as Greyhound are constantly being sold out or not working. Salinas said private bus owners have found a “lucrative business” ferrying people from Eagle Pass to San Antonio amid the bus shortage.
Even with the extra buses, Salinas said he received phone calls this month from residents irritated by people loitering in the neighborhood and excessive litter around the shelter. To accommodate the need for larger space, Mission: Border Hope moved two weeks ago to an 8,000 square foot commercial warehouse capable of holding hundreds of people inside.
Similar issues plague other parts of the border, seeing large numbers of migrants crossing the border, such as Yuma, Arizona, which lacks flights and airports. The city of 90,000 is a three-hour drive from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Transporting freed migrants has been a challenge, according to Republican Mayor Douglas Nicholls, but with limited flights authorities are considering other airports they can use to transport the 350 people who book flights each day.
“I don’t think you can do it all through Phoenix. Right now we’re looking at a lot of different options, like Vegas, Palm Springs, Mesa Gateway, which is in Phoenix,” Nicholls said.
Since illegal immigration to the western half of Arizona began to climb a year ago, the Regional Center for Border Health has become the only organization helping migrants when they are removed from state facilities. border patrol. To date, the city has been able to transport migrants by bus to the Phoenix airport with no real problem, but any increase in this number will trigger a need for housing due to logistical constraints to get everyone out of the city during the day. even their release. Nicholls tried to avoid having to set up shelters to hold migrants overnight, but he said next summer it would likely be a necessity.
“I would rather have people over the summer in some sort of residential setting,” Nicholls said, noting the danger of leaving people without adequate shelter in the brutal summer heat. “It is the humanitarian catastrophe that we are trying to prevent.”
By deploying shelters, the city could avoid what happened in December, when 6,000 people were apprehended by Border Patrol in four days. Government facilities were so overwhelmed that migrants marched from the border into town in search of help, he said. The mayor declared a state of emergency and maintained it on the grounds that he had heard of no federal plan to help local governments deal with the influx of people crossing the border illegally.