Overwhelmed El Paso Starts Its Own Migrant Bus Service to NYC

$174 Million in ‘Homelessness’ Funding DHS Wants You to Pay to Transport and Support Illegal Entrants

By Andrew R. Arthur on September 4, 2022

Recent posts have looked at a program under which Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) is busing migrants released by DHS in border towns to Washington, D.C., and New York City. Now the largest of those border towns — El Paso — is getting in on the act, not to send a message to sanctuary city mayors, but because it’s so overwhelmed with migrants that it has few other options. All this reveals that DHS is spending tens of millions of dollars to transport and support migrants that it has released — in violation of the law — at the Southwest border.

El Paso. El Paso, Texas, is no Podunk town. It’s a city with more than 684,000 residents, located in the western part of the Lone Star state on the banks of the Rio Grande. It’s also the sixth-largest city in the state in terms of population, and the 24th-largest in the nation, one spot behind Boston.

In the 2020 general election, more than two-thirds of the voters there cast their ballots for Joe Biden, and El Paso has been described as “moderately” to “very” liberal. While local races are facially non-partisan, Mayor Oscar Leeser is a Democrat, as is the local congresswoman, Rep. Veronica Escobar, who cruised to reelection in 2020 with nearly 65 percent of the vote.

Escobar has been an outspoken opponent of Abbott, deriding his plan to have state officials take migrants they have caught to the border ports for return across the river as “unconstitutional, dangerous, and irresponsible”. As she stated: “This isn’t an invasion and he knows it.”

She has also asserted that “anyone claiming the border is ‘open’ is being dishonest,” so you know where the congresswoman is coming from.

Surge in El Paso Migrant Releases. Whether you agree with the majority of respondents in a recent NPR/Ipsos poll who describe what’s happening at the Southwest border an “invasion” or — like Escobar — don’t, El Paso has its hands full dealing with newly released migrants into its environs.

The New York Post reported on August 31 that the city is being “flooded” by the 900 migrants who are being released there daily. That article continues:

The crisis in El Paso came to a boiling point Tuesday night when city leaders were told by federal immigration officials that 500 asylum-seeking immigrants from Venezuela made up of women and children would be released into the streets unless the city could house them.

The paper quoted Jorge Rodriguez with El Paso’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), who noted: “This number was going to be above and beyond what our local [shelter] was prepared to take.” That makes sense, because shelters there have already taken in more than 2,200 migrants in the past week, and the city’s largest shelter closed last month after the city refused to take it over.

Some 133 of those 500 migrants were placed on buses chartered last week by the city, headed to New York. That’s separate and apart from Abbott’s buses, many of which are also destined for the Big Apple.

The Post also quotes El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino, who stated:

These migrants are in our country legally. ... They are allowed to be here. We are the Paso Del Norte; we are the pass. There’s thousands of people passing through our community on a daily basis. They have sponsors. They’re getting to cities across the country. This just happened to be a group that didn’t have the funding so we did the next best thing.

Keep that last part in mind. Whether the first part of that statement is legally sound is open to debate, but it appears that for now El Embotellamiento (the bottleneck) is a better sobriquet for a border city that wants to ensure that it doesn’t become El Callejón sin Salida (the dead end) for hundreds of migrants per day.

In any event, the El Paso Times reports that D’Agostino is coordinating with the state to “augment the charter buses to move migrants” out of Texas, and envisions using charters as long as necessary.

El Paso’s Buses vs. Abbott’s. In that vein and interestingly, while it appears that Texas is paying for Abbott’s buses, you are paying for El Paso’s, at least according to the Texas Tribune. D’Agostino explains therein that the transportation provided to migrants by OEM is reimbursable by DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

It’s not clear how long El Paso has been running its busing scheme, which did not come to light until a local press outlet, El Paso Matters, asked about the city about it. Apparently, the difference between “good” buses for migrants and “bad” ones is simply a matter of publicity, and who pays for the buses. Texans pay for Abbott’s, while all American taxpayers foot the bill for El Paso’s.

That would explain, however, why New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) complained in mid-July that Texas buses were bringing migrants to his city, before Abbott started sending migrants there. According to the Tribune’s reporting on August 26:

New York City officials said Thursday that they were unaware a fifth bus was arriving from El Paso — raising questions about whether officials with the city of El Paso or the OEM are coordinating with the receiving cities for the migrants’ care.

$174 Million in Taxpayer Funding for Migrant Support. In an August 31 post, I noted that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had complained that Abbott was wreaking “problems in our very efficient processing”, a point that made no sense then and just a little more now. It seems that some combination of DHS, FEMA, and localities are coordinating NGOs at the border with others in the interior to move and provide for migrants throughout the United States.

The Post reported, for example, that the 133 Venezuelans in El Paso would be received by “Grannies Respond” in New York City. That nonprofit’s website has a banner at the top which reads: “Team TLC NYC is receiving the buses sent from TX to NYC and seeing to the needs of every single asylum seeker!”

The group asserts that it works in Texas, Louisiana, New York, California, and — for reasons that are unclear — Kentucky.

Bowser has already admitted that her office has helped funnel $1 million in FEMA cash to NGOs in her city that are “help[ing] migrants seeking asylum in our country”. All of this raises a couple of questions.

First, how much money is FEMA (a DHS component) spending to transport, feed, house, and generally provide for illegal entrants? Given the fact that more than 1.129 million migrants have been released into the United States, it could be a rather hefty tab, and it is.

FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), which “supplements and expands ongoing work of local nonprofit and governmental social service organizations to provide shelter, food, and supportive services to individuals and families who are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, hunger and/or homelessness”, received $280 million in FY 2022.

If it sounds like that cash goes to homeless Americans, you would be less than half correct. Of that $280 million, $150 million is going to “organizations providing humanitarian assistance to migrant families and individuals encountered by DHS”.

That’s just the beginning, because in its FY 2023 budget request, FEMA is seeking an additional $24 million for the EFSP, to “provide emergency food and shelter support to [aliens] released from DHS custody after crossing the southern border”. The agency explains:

[A]s migrant numbers increase, there is also a rise in agencies outside of the immediate border, in localities such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin, New York City, and Portland, ME that are beginning to provide humanitarian services to migrants, before they reach a sponsor. The additional jurisdictions also require an increased availability of EFSP funds for humanitarian relief.

That leads to the second question: Why is a federal program to combat homelessness in an emergency agency paying for what has become — under Biden — an endemic problem? Keep in mind that “FEMA’s mission is helping people before, during and after disasters.” (Emphasis added.)

FEMA all-but admits there’s something screwy going on because it refers to that $130 million for homeless Americans as “Funds for Carrying Out the Regular EFSP” (emphasis added). Here’s how it looks to me.

Mayorkas has admitted that the administration’s objective is not to deter aliens from entering the United States illegally. Instead, the objective is “to make sure that we have safe, orderly, and legal pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system” — that is, for illegal entrants to apply for asylum, regardless of the strength of their claims, or even whether they come seeking asylum.

By statute, Mayorkas must acquire and maintain “operational control” at the border. Despite that, his department is now shoveling tens of millions of dollars in federal cash to localities and NGOs to hide the “disaster” there. Biden doesn’t care if you don’t like his border policies, but he expects you to pay for them nonetheless.