Despite acknowledging that they “dropped the ball” by releasing more than 200 asylum seekers onto the streets of El Paso without money or means of transportation—or without warning local officials—Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials said they plan to release hundreds more over Christmas, U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke told Texas Monthly Monday. The move over the holiday has local government officials and nonprofit leaders scrambling to house and feed the unexpected onslaught of immigrants.
The move is the latest salvo by the Trump administration on the immigration front, coming as the federal government is experiencing a partial shutdown of services over an impasse on whether money should be allocated to build a border wall just blocks from where the asylum seekers in El Paso were released. Witnesses believed the move was especially insensitive coming just before Christmas and sparking chaos among volunteers and city officials intent on trying to prevent immigrants from having to sleep on the streets.
O’Rourke and other leaders said ICE reneged on a promise in October not to make large, unannounced releases of migrants into the community, and instead work with nonprofits and governments to place them in shelters through an orderly process. That commitment came after ICE dropped off about 100 migrants without notice at the Greyhound station near downtown El Paso. An ICE spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment, likely because she was furloughed because of the partial government shutdown triggered by a fight between congressional Democrats and President Trump over $5 billion in funding for a border wall. O’Rourke said there was no indication that the release of the migrants without notice was tied to the shutdown.