EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Jesus Mendez teared up when he paused to think about his journey to the United States.
The 20-year-old from Venezuela had spent the past 10 days in a holding cell before finding himself at the Greyhound bus station in Downtown El Paso on Thursday afternoon.
Mendez is one of the dozens of paroled migrants that the U.S. Border Patrol started releasing the night before due to severe overcrowding at its processing centers, local officials say.
Further, the Border Patrol is contemplating erecting tent space in the next three to four days to handle the overflow of migrants who are not immediately expelled under public health order Title 42 and are instead routed to processing centers, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said.
Samaniego on Thursday told KTSM that Border Patrol processing centers in the El Paso Sector are at 3,400 capacity and are unable to hold Venezuelan migrants, in particular, any longer.
Local authorities, the Border Patrol and the nonprofit organizations that provide legal assistance and comfort to migrants usually take in migrants released from federal custody, but are currently lacking volunteers at churches and shelters, Samaniego said.
An official with the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, which has been accommodating migrants as well, told KTSM it took in 95 adult Venezuelan citizens in a single day who were apparently dropped off in Downtown El Paso by the Border Patrol.
The Border Patrol late Thursday sent a statement saying it’s working with non-governmental organizations to coordinate releases.
“The El Paso Sector works closely with (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and Removal Operations for detention space and with local government officials and NGOs to decompress the high capacity of migrants in holding at the Sector’s Central Processing Center,” the statement said. “Once those options are exhausted, provisional releases are considered.”
The agency did not say how many migrants it had released on Thursday.
“Generally, after processing migrants who are not detained for the duration of their removal proceeding […] U.S. Border Patrol coordinates with local governments and cities to identify locations where migrants can conveniently access transportation services or accommodations,” the Border Patrol said. “Migrants will be provisionally released near community shelters, homeless shelters and bus stations throughout the city of El Paso.”
On Thursday, Jose Antonio Linares Rivero said he was headed to New York City and then Orlando, Florida to reunite with his grandmother and aunt.
The 21-year-old said it took him 30 days to get from Barquisimeto, Venezuela to the border wall in El Paso.
“The situation (in Venezuela) is difficult,” he said in Spanish. “And since I’m young, I’d like to fulfill my American dream, and here I am, in God’s name.”
For Mendez, who hails from Biscucuy, Venezuela, the moment was bittersweet.
He said being on U.S. soil brought him a sense of joy that he could not describe. But his eyes swelled with tears as he remembered his late grandfather.
“I looked up at the sky and I thought about my grandfather, who I always promised I’d make it (to America). I always told him, ‘One day I will be in the United States and I will take you to visit.’ … He ended up dying … but I made it. It’s a joy, it’s awesome.”