EAGLE PASS, Texas — The mayor of the small Texas town at the center of the migration crisis says he has yet to hear from the Biden administration about its plans for ending the border policy known as Title 42, despite the government’s claim that it is working with local officials.
“Nobody has reached out to me or to the city. I haven’t heard from anyone,” said Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas.
“I wish our federal government stepped up even a little more just to give us some direction, or I would like to hear a plan as to what they’re doing to counter the possibility of a surge in people on the border. I think we deserve that — as border mayors, as people living in the United States — an explanation,” said Salinas, who began his first term last year.
The lack of communication comes a week after the Department of Homeland Security issued a six-point plan outlining its steps for handling a rise in illegal migration upon ending the pandemic policy, referred to as Title 42, for turning away migrants at the border.
In its plan, the DHS stated that U.S. border officials and its Southwest Border Coordination Center task force would “continue to engage extensively with state and local governments” to “ensure close operational coordination and support ongoing local planning efforts.”
“This regular coordination includes a focus on noncitizen transport and capacity planning, resolving logistical challenges, and addressing community concerns through shared solutions,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote in the memo.
Salinas, who oversees the 29,000-person town on a volunteer basis and practices personal injury law as his day job, said he is left to wonder what the federal government’s plan is.
“It’s not really a plan to prevent a massive influx of people to come into the United States. It’s more of how they’re going to do it — to facilitate increasing capacity at the [nongovernmental organization],” Salinas said. “You’re making it so efficient. … It’s like counterproductive.”
Approximately 2,000 noncitizens are illegally entering the United States from Mexico daily around Eagle Pass, but only half are able to be taken into custody, he said. Of the 1,000 people that border officials are able to intercept each day, about half are released and allowed to remain in the U.S. as they await a resolution to their immigration case.
Salinas said the town has heard from and is working with the state. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott sent in National Guard soldiers as part of Operation Lone Star last year. The soldiers helped detain illegal migrants and installed barbed wire fences and shipping containers in areas near downtown to funnel people to certain areas.
Border Patrol proposed that Salinas initially use a public golf course on the border to detain the 10,000-20,000 migrants expected to cross the river when Title 42 ends — a move Salinas immediately shot down.
A federal judge in late April temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s plan to end it on May 23.