AUSTIN, Texas — Emergency management officials in a remote area near Texas's border with Mexico are rushing to figure out how the 5,000-person town of Carrizo Springs can handle backdoor releases of migrants into their community.
City and county officials in Carrizo Springs and Dimmit County are bracing for the possibility of a crisis in the coming days as the Border Patrol resorts to discharging people in its custody onto the street because the shelter that normally accommodates migrants is at capacity.
"It is a very concerning situation," said Christine Guerrero, chief clerk of the court in Dimmit County, which includes Carrizo Springs. "Border Patrol says these migrants that are coming — they’re not looking to stay here. They’re looking to going farther up."
The problem for Guerrero is that her small county of 10,000 residents has no train, plane, or bus to get migrants out of town and on to their final destinations.
Over the past week, Border Patrol officials stationed in Eagle Pass and Del Rio have seen an influx of migrants illegally coming across the Rio Grande from Acuna, Coahuila, in Mexico. Migrants who surrender to the Border Patrol on the U.S. side or are otherwise chased down and taken into custody are processed at one of eight stations within 100 miles of the border.
Since March 18, agents in the area have apprehended four groups of 100 people each after they crossed the border, as well as smaller groups. Because Border Patrol stations on the border in Del Rio and Eagle Pass are overwhelmed, migrants in Eagle Pass are sometimes transported to a station that is more than 40 miles away in Carrizo Springs or a station 60 miles away in Uvalde. Migrants are processed and then transported back to Eagle Pass before being released to the nonprofit organization Mission Border Hope.
This morning, with facilities in the area over capacity, Border Patrol was forced to release a group of migrants into the city of Uvalde. The neighboring town of Carrizo Springs has had to do the same.— Rep. Tony Gonzales (@RepTonyGonzales) March 23, 2022
This is the consequence of a broken immigration system and failed policies. pic.twitter.com/MuJanr7c5E
Due to the increase in illegal immigration, Mission Border Hope is out of room to take in more people, prompting the Border Patrol to plan to release detainees directly from their stations into Carrizo Springs and Uvalde.
“Most of [the migrants] do not want to stay in this area. They have family farther up. They have employment opportunities farther up. So basically, what they're doing is they're just trying to get to their next destination,” said Guerrero.
The problem, said Guerrero, is that no private bus company, including Greyhound, runs through Carrizo Springs. Migrants have no way to rent a car or take a train to the closest large city, San Antonio, which is 115 miles away.
Fifty miles northwest of Carrizo Springs is the 16,000-person town of Uvalde, where the Border Patrol has already begun releasing adult migrants. Unlike Carrizo Springs, Uvalde is on a Greyhound bus route that connects Eagle Pass to San Antonio.
“This is the first group of illegal aliens released this morning. This group boarded a [Southwest Area Regional Transit District] bus and will be transported to the bus station in San Antonio. The next group is scheduled to be released later this afternoon," Uvalde County Sheriff Ruben Nolasco told a photographer in Uvalde on Wednesday.
“This is the first group of IA’s released this morning. This group boarded a SWART bus and will be transported to the bus station in San Antonio. The next group is scheduled to be released later this afternoon.” Sheriff Ruben Nolasco https://t.co/JxezKk1f25@Anna_Giaritelli pic.twitter.com/D4KBsXAeJm— Auden B. Cabello (@CabelloAuden) March 23, 2022
Carrizo Springs officials met Tuesday to discuss how they will respond to expected migrant releases. City Clerk Melissa Guerra told the Washington Examiner on Thursday that city officials had met with the Border Patrol, but there was no plan in place yet.
"They won’t release [migrants] until there's a plan worked out. Right now, county emergency management is working on [that] with the Border Patrol," Guerra said.
The Border Patrol assured Guerrero that it will not release people at night. Guerrero said she has yet to learn how many people could be released and how soon it could start, but planning is moving at a fast rate.
Dimmit County officials are looking at copying Uvalde's approach and using local public buses to ferry migrants to San Antonio, Guerrero said, adding that the county was "still trying to figure out how we are going to be able to handle that." The Dimmit County Office of Emergency Management, the Dimmit County Sheriff's Department, the Carrizo Springs mayor, and other local officials are deliberating how to respond.
The challenge for local and municipal leaders is that federal funding to help towns and counties cover these unexpected costs cannot be used by the local governments themselves — they must be used by nongovernmental organizations. As a result, Guerrero is looking for local churches or charities that are willing to help the migrants.
Those released have been screened against criminal databases and have paperwork allowing them to reside in the United States through their legal proceedings.
In addition to the migrant releases affecting her small town, Guerrero said everyday life has been affected by human and drug smugglers.
"This morning, there was an actual chase that came through downtown Carrizo. These chases have become so — I don’t want to say 'normal' — but they are happening too often in our rural town," Guerrero said. "These people, they’re driving 100 miles an hour, and this [chase] was right through downtown [and] ended up behind the Catholic church, rolled over in front of a couple houses, took a fence down."