Biden border crisis is turning El Paso into a giant tent city

AP Photo/Christian Chavez

A giant tent is being put up in El Paso by the Border Patrol as the city prepares for the end of Title 42. It is bigger than a football field and located northeast of downtown. This project began as border communities waited to see if Title 42 would end this month but now we know that Title 42 will remain in place at least until February.


El Paso still needs additional space for the flood of illegal migrants coming across the border. The local authorities are so overwhelmed that they are turning the overflow of people out on the streets because there is nowhere for them to stay while they wait to go through the asylum process. The current processing center the Border Patrol has in El Paso won’t be able to handle the need when a predicted 5,000 migrants per day cross the border and come into the city.

“It’s still going to get worse before it even gets better, and that’s what we’re preparing for,” El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said Friday. “That’s what I call the unknown.”

“As we know [Border Patrol’s] CPC, central processing center, has a capacity of 1,400; we know that their breaking point is 5,000,” El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said at a public meeting the same day. “With this surge, they know that they will not be able to hold it.”

The new facility will be ready to open in mid-January. According to CBP, services that will be available include food, medical, and childcare. Border Patrol agents and contractors will operate the facility.

DHS Secretary Mayorkas published a 6-pillar plan in April to handle the migrant crisis when Title 42 is lifted, though at the time it was referred to as an outline. A specific plan and how it will be carried out has not been distributed. Part of the plan stated that “soft-sided facilities” (tents) will be in use.


We have added 10 soft-sided facilities to increase our CBP holding capacity by over a third since early 2021, with additional facilities planned, and more than doubled our capacity to transport noncitizens. This includes hundreds of flights and bus routes per week to transport detained noncitizens to less crowded Border Patrol sectors for processing and to remove or return noncitizens to their home or third countries; we will continue to scale up our ground and air transportation capabilities in light of potential increases. We have also increased contracted medical personnel by 44 percent since the start of FY 2022 to support the health and safety of noncitizens in our care.

Local NGOs point out that the new facility will provide relief to local shelters.

“I mean we’re continuing to see a large number of migrants with our without Title 42. Our shelters right now are still operating overcapacity even though we’ve seen the numbers drop a little bit,” said John Martin the deputy director with the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.

Martin added the past two days are the first in about three weeks they see some relief. However, he said it might be due to the cold weather leaving El Paso.

“In the men’s’ program last night here we had 202 individuals for a program that can comfortably handle 120. At the Welcome Center we had 120 individuals for a program that should accommodate close to 85,” said Martin. “So we’re still operating overcapacity but not to the extent that we had in the past week.”


The new giant tent will have the capacity for up to 1,000 migrants at a time. It will be staffed by Border Patrol processing coordinators and other federal personnel and contractors. CBP has more than that number already in custody in El Paso.

“We are busy here in the El Paso Sector and any foreseeable end of Title 42 we are going to be processing and encountering more migrants than ever before,” said U.S. Border Patrol Acting Supervisory Agent Carlos A. Rivera. “One of the resources we are implementing right now, we are getting one of 10 soft-sided facilities from CBP on Highway 54. It is one more processing area, one more facility that we will be operating to deal with this current migrant influx.”

CBP has primarily been using the Central Processing Station near the corner of US 54 and Hondo Pass during the migrant surge. CBP in recent weeks has been holding up to 5,100 migrants at a time due to the historic surge in the El Paso Sector that began building up in September. CBP had more than 1,800 migrants in custody in El Paso as of Monday, according to the City of El Paso’s migrant dashboard.

What a mess. Color me skeptical that 10 large tents staged in various locations will handle the historically high number of illegal migrants crossing the southern border. A capacity of 1,000 is not going to be able to keep up with the flood of migrants as long as the border remains porous. Throwing up football field size tents in border communities isn’t enough. There is no substitution for securing the border with policies and agreements in place to do so.


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