July 22, 2021 | 5:31pm | Updated July 22, 2021 | 6:25pm
Buses leaving the Texas city at the heart of the border crisis are struggling to keep up with business — because they’re full of illegal immigrants released into the US by overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, The Post has learned.
Since the crisis erupted following President Biden’s election, the four bus companies that operate out of the Central Station bus terminal in McAllen, Texas, have added as many as six daily routes, totaling 250 seats — but it’s still not enough, City Manager Roy Rodriguez said.
“We don’t have enough private bus seats to get everyone out,” Rodriguez told The Post.
The demand for tickets out of town is at a “record” high, with “most, if not all” of the recent increase coming from migrants who were caught crossing the border illegally and released pending future court appearances, Rodriguez said, citing information pulled together by McAllen Transit Director Mario Delgado.
“All seats are already purchased for tomorrow,” Rodriguez said Wednesday.
“So, if somebody wants to buy a bus fare to head north, they have to wait two days.”
Central Station has also seen a 50 percent surge in the number of passengers hanging around and waiting to leave, he said, adding, “That’s substantial because we’re a pretty busy bus station to begin with.”
A spokesperson for Greyhound Lines — the country’s largest bus company and one of the four that provide service to and from McAllen — acknowledged a spike in demand for travel from the southern border since March and said that “some of the increase can be attributed to migrant travel.”
Greyhound hasn’t received any federal help to expand its operations, the company said, but “would welcome assistance from the government as we continue to work diligently to provide travel support to migrant families.
“While it is not Greyhound’s responsibility to specifically transport migrants, Greyhound strives to treat all passengers with dignity,” the spokesperson added.
Representatives for three other carriers — Trailways, Tornado Bus Co. and El Expreso Bus Co. — didn’t respond to inquiries.
McAllen is located in the Rio Grande Valley, one of nine regions in the Border Patrol’s southern jurisdiction, which has seen more illegal immigration than any other, with 260,000 migrants stopped there since Feb. 1, according to federal data.
Nearly half of the migrants were in family groups, the statistics show.
Once caught by Border Patrol agents, they are processed and then sent to a government-run, coronavirus-testing site across from the bus terminal.
After being tested, the migrants are escorted to a nearby center run by Catholic Charities, where they stay for an average of 24 hours while making arrangements to travel further into the US.
The center now accommodates a record average of 7,000 people a week, with about half leaving by bus and the rest by airplane, Rodriguez said.
Although migrants are supposed to be released from custody with a manila envelope containing instructions on when and where they’re supposed to appear in federal immigration court, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged earlier this year that doesn’t always happen.
“In some cases, families are placed in removal proceedings further along in the release process rather than while they are at the border patrol station,” DHS said in late March.
Rodriguez said McAllen has no choice but to deal with the influx and praised the assistance provided by Catholic Charities, saying, “Thank God for them because I don’t know where we’d be without them.”
“We’re continuing to attempt to ensure that everyone is tested so that anyone is removed from the line, whether it be the bus or the airplane, and that’s the best that they can do,” he said.
“These folks are not coming across to stay here and therefore we’ve got to provide them [a way] to where they’re headed.”