Migrants use El Paso airport as shelter amid surge, end of NYC bussing

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Migrants use El Paso airport as shelter amid surge, end of NYC bussing

A relentless surge of immigrants crossing the border into El Paso, Texas, is threatening to overwhelm its airport — with stranded migrants encamped on the floor since the city shuttered a welcome center and stopped bussing them to places like New York City.

After El Paso ended its charter bus program — which took almost 11,000 immigrants to the Big Apple over two months — migrants crossings at Texas’ biggest border city are increasingly dependent on the airport or commercial buses to get out of town.

“Our airport right now is really bad,” said El Paso City Council member Claudia Rodriguez. “Some people are sleeping at the airport.”

“They’re immigrants being released there by the Border Patrol. Basically, they’re … handling it at this point,” she lamented, adding most El Paso residents are unaware of the pileup.

El Paso International Airport aviation director Sam Rodriguez acknowledged the troubling numbers of migrants stuck at the facility.

“We’ve certainly seen an increase of folks at the airport especially on the overnights here in the last couple of days,” Rodriguez told The Post last week. “It’s a matter of the volume (that) continues to come through.”

Asylum-seeking migrants from various Central and South American Countries rest in the terminal building at El Paso International Airport.
Asylum-seeking migrants from various Central and South American Countries rest in the terminal building at El Paso International Airport on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.

Asylum-seeking migrants.
Migrants wait for their flights to head to cities in the US.

Asylum-seeking migrants.
Migrants shelter in the airport after they were released from CBP in El Paso.

Asylum-seeking migrants.
As many as 130 people are packing into a designated area at the airport.

Before the city shuttered its migrant welcome center and bussing program in late October, immigrants could wait for their flight at the center — or the city would put them up in a hotel. Now that those options are ended, as many as 130 people are packing into a designated area at the airport.

“It’s all going to bottle up at the El Paso airport, and with the pandemic, the airlines reduced their capacity,” said El Paso immigrant advocate Ruben Garcia.

The Annunciation House charity, where Garcia is director, has started bussing immigrants to Denver, partly so they can fly out of Denver’s airport to their final destination and alleviate demand and crowding at El Paso’s travel hub.

People sleep on the floor at El Paso airport in October.
People sleep on the floor at El Paso International Airport in October.
MaryAnn Martinez

Since Sept. 30, El Paso’s airport began setting up cots in a designated area for immigrants whose flights were early in the morning, and had a wait of less than 12 hours.

But the growing number of migrants using the airport as a makeshift shelter is starting to alarm residents — including one city council member who was at the airport over the weekend.

“There were also a number of people that seemed to be spread out throughout the sort of lobby area where the large ELP (sign) is,” said City Council Member Peter Svarzbein at a Nov. 7 public meeting Monday. “I’m concerned more about their safety and the community.”

Asylum-seeking migrants from Venezuela cross the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Asylum-seeking migrants from Venezuela cross the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to US Border Patrol agents.

Migrants walk near the border wall after crossing the Rio Bravo river.
Migrants walk near the border wall after crossing the Rio Bravo river.

Family members embrace as they participate in a reunification meeting for relatives separated by deportation and immigration.
Family members embrace as they participate in a reunification meeting for relatives separated by deportation and immigration.

Venezuelan migrants set up an encampment on the south bank of the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez.
Venezuelan migrants set up an encampment on the south bank of the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez.

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser did not respond to The Post’s request for comment. He has previously resisted pressure from three city council members to declare a state of emergency over the border. The White House had asked the mayor not to declare a state of emergency, the Post revealed last month — but Leeser maintains his decision wasn’t based on pressure from the Biden administration.

City officials said last week the Border Patrol asked El Paso to re-open a migrant welcome center to avoid releasing immigrants into the streets — as the agency was forced to do because of the increasing number of arrivals at the border.

But the city declined, citing expenditures of close to $9 million on the border crisis — money the White House promised to reimburse but has yet to fully comply.

“I don’t even know if it’s being reported because unless you go to the airport, you’re not going to see it,” Rodriguez said of the troubling overcrowding.

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