(CNSNews.com) – El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said Thursday that his city is getting reimbursed for the costs of handling migrants, so “it’s not costing us any money.”
The mayor told MSNBC’s “Jose Diaz-Balart Reports” said half of the migrants that cross the southern border into El Paso, Texas, do not have sponsors, so he has been working with the federal government to take them to where they want to go.
“I think it's important to know that as the migrants come into El Paso, they’re not coming to El Paso. They’re coming to the United States. So now we go to help them to see where they’re going. It's changed a lot since Venezuela has started coming over,” he told MSNBC’s “Jose Diaz-Balart Reports.”
“Originally, we had about 95% of the people coming over had sponsors, and sponsors are family members that-- so we knew where they were going, and they had money to go. So since then, 50% of them do not have sponsors,” Leeser said.
“So it’s become --- we have been working with the federal government, and we have been working together to take them to where they want to go. It's very important that El Paso is a very caring city. We want to make sure we treat people the way you and I would want to be treated,” the mayor added.
Host Jose Diaz-Balart said that the Venezuelans he spoke to in El Paso said they weren’t really aware of where in the U.S. that they were and they didn’t want to go to anywhere specifically. He said one of the migrants told him he thinks that Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts is great because that’s where presidents live.
“We're all working together and as you can see, we don't have them out on the street, which is really important. We find them shelter. We find them food,” the mayor said.
Diaz-Balart pointed out that the shelters are full.
“The shelters are full,” Leeser agreed, “and that's why we're working with the federal government to make sure that we can get decompressed and the help. We have been getting help from the government. Our congresswoman, which I know you to talked earlier, has been helpful to get that.
“We ended up getting yesterday--- we got allocated $2 million from FEMA with a lot of help from her up front so we could continue to do that. So it didn't cost El Paso taxpayers any money, but we continued to be able to do it and not effect what's going on in El Paso,” he said.
Leeser said his city is being reimbursed for the costs of handling the migrants.
“We have been dealing with the White House. It's not costing us any money. That's the thing, and I know that we're looking for reimbursements right now. We have probably through September 15th we have a million dollars that we're going for reimbursement at the end of the 3rd quarter from FEMA. We just got paid from the 1st and 2nd quarter, so that’s really important that we continue to work as partners,” he said.
“Now one of the things that I think it's important that she talk to the people, and I talked to some of the kids just like you did. I said, you know where you're at? She said, yes, we want to go to Disneyland. It's important that we treat people like human beings. We put people on buses where they want to go, and We also put human beings and food in there with them,” the mayor said.
Diaz-Balart said that in August, a five-year-old girl drowned trying to cross the river into El Paso.
Migrants who cross the border are “not confrontational,” and are “not criminals,” Leeser said.
“They are people that really are going for political asylum” and want to better their life and their families’ lives, he said.
The mayor said that he spoke to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week.
“It's important to help us decompress so our shelters are not full,” Leeser said. He said that decompress means emptying their shelters.
“It's to empty them, to help us empty them and take them to a destination where they want to reunite with their families and also Venezuelan communities across the country,” the mayor said.
“We deal with the NGOs, which is non-governmental organizations, all over the country to make sure that they have the room and they will expect them, and they will greet them. They’ll greet them and be ready for them to help them to reunite,” he said.