El Paso, Texas, Mayor Oscar Leeser said in a public meeting late last month that the White House asked the city to hold off on declaring a state of emergency over the increase in migrants at the US-Mexico border, but said he also didn’t think it was necessary at that time.
“The White House has asked, at this point, for us not to do that, and they’ll continue to work with us and continue to give us supply money through (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and reimbursements as we continue to move forward,” Leeser said at the meeting, adding that he didn’t recommend doing that either, and he “wouldn’t support it.”
Asked on Fox News Wednesday whether the White House asked Leeser not to declare a state of emergency, the El Paso mayor said “absolutely not,” stressing instead the support he’s received from the federal government.
A White House official confirmed that they spoke with El Paso but denied any request.
“We did not make any such request, but we did make clear that the Federal Government stands ready to support the city of El Paso is every which way it can,” the official said.
It’s common for the administration to be in touch with border cities grappling with a growing number of migrant arrivals. That’s especially been the case with El Paso, which has seen a spike in border crossers.
The federal government provides funds to cities along the US-Mexico border to assist them as they face an influx of border crossers. But border cities and counties have occasionally declared a state of emergency or issued a disaster declaration to shore up additional resources.
This month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams also declared a state of emergency amid an increase of migrants arriving to the city.
Leeser told CNN in a statement he doesn’t “bow to pressure from any side,” when asked about discussions with the White House.
“It is critical to work not only with the federal government, but with regional elected leaders and multiple partners when facing a humanitarian crisis of this level. The federal government has worked closely with me on issues as I’ve raised the challenges we have faced,” Leeser said.
“In fact, they have provided funding to reimburse the City of El Paso for expenses incurred as we have assisted, as this is a federal, not a local issue. Whoever these claims are coming from doesn’t know me very well, as I don’t bow to pressure from any side. I make decisions based on current circumstances and in the best interest of the citizens of El Paso,” he added.
El Paso also began sending buses of migrants to New York City in late August as the number of migrants arriving overwhelmed the city. The buses of migrants sent out by El Paso are in addition to the thousands of migrants the state of Texas has bused to New York City, Washington, DC, and Chicago since August.
Thousands of Venezuelan migrants have been crossing into El Paso in recent weeks, straining city resources. Last week, the Biden administration announced that it will turn back Venezuelan migrants under a Trump-era pandemic restriction, which is expected to drive down the number of border crossers.
“At this point in time the numbers have subsided and we are scaling down our operations. The need for reimbursement remains critical but declaring and emergency for staffing or support with charters is not necessary,” said Mario D’Agostino, El Paso deputy city manager.