EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The City of El Paso has closed its “Welcome Center” for migrants, the mayor announced Thursday.
City employees had been reassigned to migrant support roles but the federal government has begun expelling unsponsored Venezuelan migrants and the number of asylum seekers reaching El Paso’s border with Mexico has significantly dropped in recent days.
The city had been providing meals, hotel stays and free bus rides to migrants. At its welcoming center in Northeast El Paso, the city routed the migrants to their destination on charter buses.
Fifty municipal employees were embedded at migrant nonprofit shelters that lacked sufficient volunteers while others prepared meals for migrants at the Salvation Army.
Mayor Oscar Leeser announced the closure of the welcome center as he pushes back on reports that he was pressured by the White House not to issue an emergency declaration.
The New York Post on Monday reported that the White House pressured Leeser due to fear it would make President Joe Biden look bad.
In an interview with KTSM 9 News this week, Leeser said that the White House did ask that he not issue an emergency, but the decision was the result of discussions with immigration officials, local leaders, non-governmental organizations, as well as the White House.
“I do what’s right for the community,” Leeser said.
On Thursday, Leeser said: “Our partners concurred with my decision that the circumstances did not warrant an emergency disaster declaration, as the crisis was managed with everyone’s collaboration.”
“My decision,” he continued, “… has proven to be the correct one. The recently announced DHS policy has significantly lowered the number of asylum seekers reaching our border, we have closed our welcome center as it is no longer currently needed, and the new policy provides the majority of asylum seekers we were assisting – if they qualify – an opportunity for a legal pathway into our country as well as the opportunity to apply for a work visa.”
Leeser added that should things change, the city is positioned to resume migrant support operations as needed.
The city first began sponsoring charters on Aug. 23 and has since then chartered 292 buses to New York and Chicago.