El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser has officially declared a state of emergency in his Texas border town, claiming he can no longer guarantee the safety of asylum seekers or his community ahead of Wednesday’s expiration of Title 42, a Trump-era policy that restricted the number of people who could obtain asylum during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we see the increase in asylum seekers into our community, and we see the temperatures dropping, and we know that Title 42 looks like it’s going to be called back on Wednesday, we felt there was proper time today to call a state of emergency,” Leeser explained in a Saturday press conference.
“I said from the beginning that I would call it when I felt that either our asylum seekers or community were not safe,” he continued, “and I really believe that today, our asylum seekers are not safe, as we have hundreds and hundreds on the streets, and that’s not the way we want to treat people.”
Despite what he’s “said from the beginning,” the move marks a change of course for the mayor, who on Thursday made headlines during a border crisis press conference for saying a state of emergency would do nothing for his city.
When challenged by Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino, Leeser snatched the mic off the podium and walked off with it, ending the presser.
El Paso mayor ends border crisis presser by storming off stage, refuses to declare an emergency https://t.co/Q44y1GPxeE
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) December 17, 2022
As American Wire reported, El Paso is ground zero for the nation’s border crisis.
More than 2,500 migrants per day have been released to the city’s overwhelmed shelters and streets.
On Thursday, Leeser’s position was to rely on a promise from the federal government of $6 million to handle the influx of border crossers.
“We were able to get the funding without having to [declare an emergency],” Leeser stated.
But, as city council member Claudia Rodriguez noted, there was no guarantee that the money would arrive.
“The $6 million is promised, but we have not yet received it,” Rodriquez said. “We’re days away from Title 42 being lifted and I’m not sure what’s going to happen if we don’t receive those fundings.”
Prior to having the microphone confiscated by the mayor, D’Agostino said that a “declaration allows the state to open additional funding outside of their normal budget.”
By Saturday, Leeser was agreeing with his slighted deputy city manager.
“By calling a state of an emergency it gives us the ability today to be able to do what we couldn’t do until we called it,” Leeser said.
The enormity of the impact the expiration of Title 42 will have on his city has apparently finally hit the mayor.
BREAKING: A huge migrant caravan of over 1,000 people crossed illegally into El Paso, TX last night, making it the largest single group we have ever seen. The city of El Paso reports Border Patrol now has over 5,000 in custody & has released hundreds to city streets. @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/ewUQX757Lt
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) December 12, 2022
“We know the influx on Wednesday [December 21] will be incredible it will be huge,” he said on Saturday. “On Wednesday our numbers will go from 2,500 to 4,000, 5,000, maybe 6,000.”
Following Thursday’s wild press conference, Rodriguez speculated that Leeser’s reluctance to declare a state of emergency might have something to do with the Democrat’s feelings for Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
“He has told me himself that the governor is very difficult to work with and that he’s going to come into El Paso and militarize the entire operation,” she said.
On Saturday, Leeser addressed this concern.
“[Abbott] said ‘Mayor I’m going to tell you something we will never do anything without talking to you first and we won’t impose anything without talking to you first,'” Leeser stated.
El Paso’s city council will now have the opportunity, according to Fox News, to ratify the declaration, which will remain in place for seven days.
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