White House says it's 'surging' resources to Texas to address migrant influx but offers no details

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration says it is "surging" resources to El Paso, where migrants with nowhere else to go are sleeping in the streets while they scrape together bus money or await immigration proceedings.

Pressed to say what the administration is doing to help migrants, with homeless shelters mostly overwhelmed in Texas' sixth-largest city, the White House did not elaborate and deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to request for comment.

"They've been surging resources to the region and working to quickly decompress the area," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday.

Migrants not immediately expelled are screened and processed to have their asylum claims heard by immigration judges in removal proceedings, Jean-Pierre said.

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But with an influx of migrants, many from Venezuela, arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, local authorities and homeless shelters have largely struggled to keep up. As of Wednesday, U.S. Border Patrol had released 1,166 migrants into the streets in eight days.

Venezuelan migrants were sat down in rows by U.S. Customs and Border Protection as hundreds were being held in an area underneath the Loop 375 overpass on the embankment of the Rio Grande on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022.

Under questioning about the administration's plans to address the migrant surge, Jean-Pierre touted a designation known as Temporary Protective Status, which allows Venezuelan refugees who arrived in the country early last year to live and work in the United States.

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"That's why we have TPS," Jean-Pierre said. 

But only Venezuelans who entered the U.S. prior to March 8, 2021, can access those resources, meaning migrants arriving at the southern border now are not eligible.

Jean-Pierre said Friday that it is for DHS to decide how to handle future TPS designations: "We are doing all the work that we can at the border at this moment to address what we're seeing."

Contributing: Lauren Villagran, El Paso Times.