El Paso, TX

El Paso Will Receive $2 Million in Federal Funds and Mayor Says No Disaster Yet

Tom Handy

Mayor Oscar Leeser and migrants on the streetScreenshot from Twitter

As the country is dealing with migrants along the southern border and sanctuary cities, one city is having disagreements about money. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser feels that the city can handle the influx of migrants while three City Council members disagree.

Over the past few weeks, the city of El Paso has worked to manage the migrants who cross the border. Local city police have been working to get them off the streets and local charities are working to house and feed them before they move on to their next destination.

FEMA plans to reimburse the city $500,000 by Friday that was spent earlier in the year.

Leeser said they do not have to request a disaster declaration as other cities have, such as Washington, D.C.

He said:

"We're not there yet."

Three city council members, Representatives Claudia Rodriguez, Isabel Salcido and Cissy Lizarraga, disagreed.

Rodriguez said:

“I have talked to Mayor Oscar Leeser and he doesn’t believe it’s necessary right now, he’s been told by the federal government that reimbursement is coming however, I am here representing my constituents in District 6 and they are very concerned that their money is being spent on these services instead of others that they essentially paid for."

Salcido added:

“Long term it’s just not sustainable and like was mentioned, our staff is being pulled thin and then also our resources and so declaring the State of Emergency it’s going to help with funding and resources that our community needs for us to be able to handle this without depleting more of the general fund."

Mayor Leeser said in a statement:

While I appreciate the concern expressed by the three City Representatives, the action they are calling for is premature at this time. The migrants entering our community aren’t coming to El Paso, they are coming to the United States. This is a federal issue which we are working with the federal government to address, along with many partners. The migrants we have welcomed are not threatening our community, they are seeking political asylum which is permissible under U.S. law. They stay in our community between 24 to 48-hours, and we help them to reach their destination if they don’t have a sponsor already. We have been working around the clock on this issue with the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, NGO’s, the County, our Congresswoman, the White House, partner cities and many others.
I personally visit various sites daily at different times of the day and night. Reimbursement from FEMA for the first two quarters of the year will be electronically paid by the end of this week. Thanks to Congresswoman Escobar, we have received approval for $2 million dollars upfront to address recent developments. All expenses will continue to be reimbursed by the federal government and will not fall on the backs of El Paso taxpayers. Additional federal funds will not be released with any declaration as the letter states. Continuous efforts to move the process efficiently for all individuals to avoid backlog and overcrowding are underway, and there have been absolutely no releases into our streets in almost a week.
Any statement that says otherwise is inaccurate. Our partners concur on our current course of action and as such, any change in course at this time would be irresponsible. That said, this is a fluid situation that changes hourly, and we need to be agile and adaptable. It is important that we treat every individual as everyone deserves to be treated, with dignity and respect. We will continue the work we have been doing, assess the situation as it develops, and will appreciate the Representatives’ support if we need to go in that direction in the future. In the meantime, our efforts in conjunction with our partners are working.
El Paso is a welcoming community and I have been very moved by the generosity of our citizens. We care for each other, and we care for our visitors. We will continue our collective efforts and speak as a community with one voice, which has always served El Paso best.

The migrants are seeking asylum and the process takes time for their cases to be heard. With millions of migrants who have crossed the Texas-Mexican border, this could be years later before they are heard.

Do you think Mayor Leeser should declare a disaster declaration?

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