Tens of thousands of people, from different parts of Latin America, have arrived in recent weeks in Ciudad Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros, among other municipalities on the northern border of Mexico, hoping to cross the Bravo river to enter the United States. After a long migration route, on the other side they have found a border reinforced with 1,500 soldiers, who join the 2,500 members of the National Guard, deployed by the Biden Administration, to deal with the increase in migrants expected once Title 42 ceases to be in effect.
The White House has been preparing for the end of this rule for months. It was actually scheduled to happen at the end of December, but the Supreme Court approved the extension at the request of several Republican states. Now that the health emergency is over, that rule no longer has legal validity and Title 8, which is decades old and has continued to apply during the pandemic, will apply exclusively. This measure will slow the deportation process by requiring border agents to process asylum applications, but includes more penalties for migrants who enter illegally: they will not be able to re-process their application asylum in five years and, if they try again, they risk ending up in an American prison. However, it does not provide for hot deportations, since deporting someone requires a prior interview with an officer. Thus, if under Title 42 it took 10 minutes to deport an asylum seeker, Title 8 can take more than an hour.
Anticipating the end of the health measure, the authorities of American border cities such as El Paso, Laredo or Brownsville – all three in Texas – have declared a state of emergency after detecting the arrival of more immigrants in recent weeks . In fact, the National Guard assures that the number of deportations has increased since the end of April, which are now around 7,000 per day, and predicts that they will grow even more in the coming days.
The migrant shelters on both sides of the border are already overflowing and most cannot offer bed or food to the new arrivals. And what is an undignified situation for thousands of people risks becoming a humanitarian crisis. El Paso estimates that there are more than 2,300 immigrants – with and without papers – living on the streets, and sleeping in camps around two shelters, which are collapsed. Within these hostels there are approximately 330 people. And El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser estimates that up to 15,000 migrants are in or headed for Ciudad Juárez, on the Mexican side of the border.
Biden shields the border
“The end of Title 42 does not mean an open border, but quite the opposite,” assured the Secretary of National Security of the United States, Alejandro Mayorkas, this Wednesday. Faced with the new reality, in anticipation of the arrival of more migrants, the Biden Administration has created an “operational plan” that includes measures such as increased resources for “personnel, transportation, medical support and facilities for border operations”. These include the 1,500 active-duty soldiers they have sent to the border on a temporary 90-day mission, which the government says will not act with the use of force, but in “logistical and administrative support” .
“Our overall approach is to build legal pathways for people to come to the US and impose tougher consequences on those who choose not to use those pathways,” Mayorkas said. And he sent a message to the thousands of migrants who have flocked to the border in recent days: “Smugglers only care about their profits, don’t believe them, don’t risk your life or savings to get kicked out of the US.”
More hurdles for asylum seekers
At the same time, this Thursday also comes into force a new rule that disqualifies asylum seekers who have not previously submitted their request from another country. “This administration simply will not allow mass chaos and disorder at the border due to a lack of action by Congress,” White House sources said after the measure was announced in February.
In order to be able to request entry in advance in the United States – and also in Canada, Mexico and Spain –, the Biden government announced last month the creation of regional processing centers in Latin America. It is the way he has found so that migrants can apply for entry into the country without having to go all the way to the border. However, these centers, located in Colombia and Guatemala, have not yet finished construction.
For now, therefore, asylum seekers are obliged to use a mobile application for the procedures. In order to make appointments, they must be physically located in central or northern Mexico. This application, according to Customs and Border Protection, “provides a safe, orderly and humane process for aliens to access ports of entry rather than attempt to enter the US irregularly.”