The following is the transcript of an interview with El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser that aired on “Face the Nation” on May 14, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to check in with the mayors of two cities on the Texas border with Mexico, starting with Mayor Oscar Leeser of El Paso. Mr. Mayor, are you getting the resources from the state and federal government that you need?
MAYOR OSCAR LEESER: You know, we are, and it’s really important to talk about that because Secretary Mayorkas, FEMA, they really stepped up to help us make sure that we do the job of the federal government. We all know they’re not coming into El Paso. We know they’re coming into the United States, so it’s- we’ve been working with them to make sure. And we all know the immigration process is broken. There’s no ifs and buts about it. But we are getting the resources that we need, because our city and the southern border couldn’t do it without federal aid.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you seeing any kind of health impact in your community?
LEESER: Any what? I’m sorry.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Health impact. There have been reports about, you know, health facilities- facilities being overburdened.
LEESER: You know and one of the things that, you know, when the judge passed that law that says that they have to have a court date prior to being released into the community, we’re prepared, we’re are prepared, we have two schools that were- that were empty, that- that were not being used, we’ve opened it up to be ready to help the asylum seekers, to help them go, because once they get their A-number, then they’re prepared to go through to their destination, whether it’s to meet with family, friends, or a job that they’ve arranged. We’re prepared and we have gotten the help. And we do see that the- the Border Patrol sector is full. But this morning, I got a number and they’re at 5,700. And- but we are prepared, we’re ready to move forward. And you know, Secretary Mayorkas and the Biden administration has been a big help to our community, because we couldn’t do it on our own.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. Well, there have been some complaints from nonprofit organizations that one of the problems with the federal funding through FEMA is that the government will only reimburse for documented migrants, not undocumented ones. That puts some strain on those local aid groups, what’s the impact?
LEESER: And that’s- and that’s correct. So we- we had the Red Cross come in about two weeks ago to help the NGOs, help the diocese to provide food, provide help, and continue to work with them. So one of the things that if you go into a federally aided shelter, that is the- what ends up happening. But we have had the Red Cross, the Red Cross is here in El Paso, and we’re- they’ve been prepared to help, they’re continue to help, to help them overburdened because the- you know, we need the manpower. There’s no ifs and buts about that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Red Cross? I mean–
LEESER: Yeah, the Red Cross.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When- when you hear, I- I think that’s just a- a statement that Americans hear about the Red Cross going into crises overseas, they don’t think about it in a U.S. city. But that help is what you- what you need. Are you seeing a concern with the undocumented population in your city?
LEESER: You know, that- those are the ones that are not able to move through and continue to move through. And those are the ones that are continuing to be- to work through the immigration process. One of the things that we saw on Monday, we had about 3,000 that were out at Sacred Heart Church, the federal government, the Border Patrol went in there and actually helped them all get filled out, the documents, get moving forward, and then the ones who couldn’t figure that out, they were returned into their- hopefully into their country. But one of the things you see is that we did something that hadn’t been done and that’s to help them register, help them do that, so they can move forward.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Mr. Mayor, good luck to you. And we’ll be back with a lot more “Face the Nation,” including Laredo mayor, Victor Trevino. Stay with us.