(Reuters) – The surge of migrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico has pushed the city of El Paso, Texas, to “a breaking point,” with more than 2,000 people per day seeking asylum, exceeding shelter capacity and straining resources, its mayor said Saturday.
“The city of El Paso only has so many resources and we have come to … a breaking point right now,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said.
The crush of largely Venezuelan asylum seekers is part of a larger swell of immigrants who traveled dangerous routes on buses and cargo trains to Mexican border towns near San Diego, California, and the Texas cities of El Paso and Eagle Pass.
Migrant numbers had plummeted in recent months, and the recent dramatic increase has generated a new wave of political attacks on U.S. President Joe Biden heading into the 2024 election.
Lesser told a news conference that El Paso plans to open a new shelter, and on Saturday chartered five buses to take migrants to New York, Chicago and Denver.
Republican governors in Texas and Florida have been criticized for sending migrants to cities perceived as liberal such as New York and Sacramento. But Leeser, a Democrat, said all of the migrants on the El Paso buses were going voluntarily to the cities of their choice.
Leeser said the Biden had been a good partner. But he said the overall U.S. immigration system was broken.
Many migrants from Venezuela, he said, lacked transportation to their desired destinations, while El Paso’s current shelter houses only 400 people, and must also be available to help the homeless.
As recently as six weeks ago, about 350-400 people were crossing into El Paso per day, but the past few days have brought 2,000 or more.
Over the past 10 days, the city has worked with the U.S. Border Patrol to provide shelter for 6,500 people, he said.
About two-thirds of those crossing into El Paso currently are single men, he said. About 32% are families and just 2% are unaccompanied children.
“I think it’s really important to note that we have a broken immigration system,” he said. “It’s the same thing over and over again.”