EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was in El Paso on Wednesday, meeting with law enforcement personnel in a city that remains the epicenter of unauthorized migration on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mayorkas a day earlier had been in Arizona, touting efforts to stem fentanyl trafficking through a multiagency operation called Blue Lotus. There, he met with local officials including Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs.
But in El Paso, Mayorkas failed to meet with some top local officials during his visit and that upset those who are trying to stem a major humanitarian crisis when fast-track expulsions of migrants under the Title 42 public health rule end on May 11.
“We are on the trenches. We know what’s happening. We get intel. We’re trying to set up (migrant reception) sites. We know that May 11 is coming up with (the end of) Title 42. All these things are taking place and it would have been nice to say, ‘where are you at with this?’” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. “If it has something to do with us, it would have been much better if we were able to talk about these things.”
Samaniego says local officials are asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $24 million in advance funds to deal with a post-Title 42 migrant spike and need to be reassured the federal government is willing to financially assist the county.
“Worst-case scenario would have been just to (meet) him. He comes into our community, we receive him,” Samaniego said. “That’s how it should be. And I don’t see it as an offense to me as an individual, but I see it as an offense to the community. The community works really hard. We’re doing all these things to get ready and it would have been an excellent opportunity for the community to see that he’s interested in what we do.”
Border Report reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment. DHS sent a news release about Mayorkas’ visit to the border with a single sentence about El Paso: “Secretary Mayorkas also traveled to El Paso where he met and thanked USBP Agents and CBP Office of Field Operations Officers for their work and dedication. and is awaiting a response.”
The El Paso County judge said local officials are receiving reports not only of hundreds of Venezuelans arriving across the border to Juarez, Mexico, but also of migrant caravans forming in southern Mexico with the intent of coming to the border.
If he had a chance to talk to Mayorkas on Wednesday, Samaniego said he would have asked his assessment of whether El Paso’s migrant infrastructure is sufficient to deal with whatever is coming after May 11.
“I would be able to talk to him about the (county) processing center, how we’re doubling up on that. The city has got the two schools that are ready. Is that sufficient? What else do you think we need? That only takes a few minutes,” the county judge said.
Further, Samaniego said it was his understanding from Mayorkas’ office that the DHS secretary would talk to a national television news show (60 Minutes) while in El Paso.
“If they’re interviewing him about our community, it would have been nice if he got debriefed as to what’s happening in the trenches,” he said.
DHS: 900 pounds of fentanyl stopped at border
After Mayorkas visited southern Arizona, DHS sent a news release on the results of Operation Blue Lotus. That’s the name to a surge operation targeting fentanyl smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border.
According to DHS, the operation netted 900 pounds of fentanyl in its first week. Federal agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Homeland Security Investigations, as well as state, local and tribal partners.
The op launched on March 13 relied on more targeted inspections at the border, the use of drug-sniffing dogs and undisclosed “advanced” technology. In addition to the fentanyl, law enforcement seized 700 pounds of methamphetamines and 100 pounds of cocaine at the border.
“In the past two years, DHS has seized more fentanyl than the previous five years combined. But we must do more,” Mayorkas said in Arizona.