EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The City of El Paso will be spending up to $2 million in the next 16 months to bus migrants out of town and is counting on the Biden administration for reimbursement.
The city council on a 3-1 vote Monday ratified a new services contract with Gogo Charters LLC to “transport migrants to other cities as needed.” The city already disbursed $411,000 to this company, according to a presentation to the council.
More than 550 people released from federal immigration custody have been bused out of town in charters, while the city’s Sun Metro buses have been taking migrants to shelters, bus stations and El Paso International Airport, according to the presentation. The releases rose dramatically since last week with the arrival of hundreds of Venezuelan migrants who don’t have sponsors in the United States and are not eligible to be expelled under the Title 42 public health order.
“This is an emergency. We don’t have money set aside for these particular circumstances. You are giving us the ability to spend up to $2 million with this company; that’s all we’re authorized with this particular company,” Gonzalez said. The city is getting quarterly reimbursements from the federal government related to its migrant expenses, but those reimbursements usually take five to six months.
El Paso earlier this year approved an emergency ordinance to accommodate migrant needs during the current surge. The council unanimously “re-enacted” (extended) the ordinance on Monday.
“We knew we needed to pay for things that are not within our charter […] so we wanted you to approve that ordinance to give us the ability to do things like the processing/welcome center, to pay for food and water, when necessary, to pay for hotels, to pay for transport,” the city manager said. “There’s a cost to do that, several thousands of dollars. And when you get into three, four, five charters per day, it adds up.”
Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said El Paso has sponsored 25 charter buses since Aug. 23 and would be sending out five more on Monday.
The city also has committed 50 municipal employees to assist immigration nonprofits and Gonzalez said more could be assigned. D’Agostino said city employees are filling in at nonprofits that are unable to secure sufficient volunteers to assist migrants due to lingering COVID-19 fears and other factors.