Thousands of migrants are still surging over the southern border, but once allowed into the US, most have to move on — causing confusion and overcrowding at regional airports.
Most of the migrants who arrive in the US have a sponsor, family or friends whom they need to reach.
While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bused 18,000 asylum seekers to sanctuary cities including Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia, many more can afford to fly.
Regional airports such as Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, said migrants have been staying on site for days while waiting for flights, while a homelessness center inside O’Hare Airport in Chicago has been inundated with migrants flown in from border states.
Thousands of migrants have reportedly passed through the airport in Jacksonville, Florida, while those arriving at Logan Airport in Massachusetts are going on to “overwhelm state resources,” according to a local report.
In El Paso, Texas — the busiest border crossing in the nation — the city shut its airport to the general public a week ago, only allowing ticketed passengers access in order to handle the influx.
At a checkpoint in the airport’s main concourse, travelers are forced to show a boarding pass to prove they are about to fly.
In an effort to keep migrants from loitering at the travel hub, passengers have been told they can only enter four hours prior to their flight.
The new rules have pushed migrants waiting for their flights into the airport’s baggage claim and ticket counters areas. There they huddle near electrical outlets, charging their phones and holding the government paperwork authorizing their release into the US.
“If you’re only checking a bag, we need you to use the kiosks; don’t wait for one of us,” a Southwest Airlines ticket counter agent announced to a long queue of passengers Friday. “We’re selling a lot of tickets at the counter, and it’s just going to slow you down if you’re only checking luggage.”
The airline worker confirmed that ticket counter sales have skyrocketed due to the migrant waves, as many of them don’t have internet access to purchase their tickets online.
“They’re coming up to the counter to pay for their flights; sometimes they just want to ask for prices,” the Southwest employee told The Post. “It takes a long time, really bogs things down.”
Many show up with cash, trying to buy tickets, but airlines don’t accept that form of payment.
To counter the problem, the city has installed special machines where migrants can insert paper money. In return, the machine spits out a credit card that can be used to purchase airfare.
It’s unknown how many migrants are flying out of El Paso International, since neither the city nor airlines track who is buying tickets.
All the migrants traveling by plane are in the country legally and have been vetted by US immigration officials after crossing into the US. They can be spotted by the red folders containing their documents that they carry with them.
Most are asylum seekers, who will be allowed to live in the States until courts rule whether they qualify for asylum — a process that can take years.
The migrants mostly finance their own travel with the help of friends and family in the US.
Marvin Carranza, 30, an asylum seeker, was among those at the crowded airport, waiting for his flight to Houston.
“I have a friend there who is waiting for me and paid for my ticket,” he explained.
The Colombian explained he left his homeland due to corruption and poverty. After turning himself in to Border Patrol more than a week ago, he was finally released with an asylum court date six days ago.
He tried to get a flight out of El Paso last Wednesday, but overwhelmed airlines were sold out and he had to wait until the end of the week to move on to his final destination.
El Paso only has 5,000 airline seats on any given day, according to the city. Migrants arriving in Texas’ sixth-largest city create a bottleneck at the airport — with more passengers than flights.
“It is essential for El Paso to keep them moving along. We know that we cannot shelter the sheer numbers that are anticipated to come over, and so with that, we have to look at how do we get them to their next destination or to travel hub,” Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino said last week.
Local leaders are prepared to bus migrants from El Paso to other nearby cities, with larger airports — and have been granted federal funds to do so.
“Quite frankly, it’s going to have to come in the form of charters because of our local airport. It’s a medium-size airport,” D’Agostino added.
“It’s about transporting people to other hub locations so they can get a flight out of other airports.”
“That’s what the key is, is to decompress here locally and to get them onto a transportation hub where they can connect easier with flights.”
While those charters haven’t started, the city is poised to pull the trigger at any moment, as it strains under the continued migrant crisis.