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Report: Biden pressured El Paso mayor not to declare immigration emergency

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Inflation Reduction Act in the State Dining Room at the White House on Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
November 03, 2022

The Biden administration reportedly directed the Democratic mayor of El Paso, Texas not to declare a state of emergency over an immigration crisis that recently saw more than 1,000 migrants a day released into the border city.

Mayor Oscar Leeser has been urged by at least three city councilors to declare an emergency, but admitted during a private phone call that the Biden administration told him not to, the New York Post reported.

“He told me the White House asked him not to,” Councilmember Claudia Rodriguez told the outlet.

An emergency declaration would open the city and county up to more state and federal funding to open more migrant shelters, according to the Post. 

Leeser told the Post in a prepared statement that “I don’t bow to pressure from any side,” adding that he makes “decisions based on current circumstances and in the best interest of the citizens of El Paso.”

A White House official told CNN the administration spoke with El Paso to express the government’s support, but did not ask for no emergency declaration.

But Leeser appeared to acknowledge White House influence at a Sept. 27 City Council meeting, CNN reported. 

“The White House has asked, at this point, for us not to do that,” he said, adding that he also “wouldn’t support it.” He also said the government would continue giving El Paso money through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Biden has been hammered by Republicans for not doing more to stop undocumented migrants from crossing into the U.S., and his administration is carefully avoiding phrases like “border crisis,” the New York Times reported.

El Paso itself calls its situation a “migrant crisis” that began in 2018. The crisis recently spiked in a “sudden surge” that saw the number of migrants released to the city every day grow from 250 to over 1,000 in September, according to the city. 

Once the migrants are released to El Paso, the city gives them food and water, shelters them in hotels, and helps them to their next destinations, according to its website. 

The city has spent $8.86 million dollars on the crisis this year, with the federal government just over $2 million of that, according to city data.

The city came close to declaring an emergency in May, but officials reversed course, saying it wouldn’t make much difference in funding levels, the Post reported.