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US Border Communities Declare Disasters as Title 42’s Expiration Sets the Stage for a Migration Rush


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El Paso, Texas CNN — With tens of thousands of migrants massed in northern Mexico, the expiration overnight of the US Covid-era border restriction policy known as Title 42 has American border communities on edge, worried an already challenging humanitarian crisis will worsen as crossings climb.

“We’re boarding up like there were a hurricane coming,” Victor Treviño, the mayor of Laredo, Texas, told CNN Thursday evening.

Live updates: The latest from the border after Title 42’s expiration

The South Texas counties of Cameron and Hidalgo issued disaster declarations ahead of the order’s expiration at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday to help free up state and federal resources as US troops, agents and other federal workers surged this week toward the southern border to help handle a possible crush.

Still, officials hit a roadblock late Thursday as a federal judge temporarily blocked the Biden administration from releasing screened and vetted migrants from Border Patrol without court notices – a method it had planned to use to alleviate immense strain on border facilities. The ruling sidelines a tactic used by prior administrations and is “very harmful” in light of potential overcrowding, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN on Friday.

Meantime, new rules will limit asylum claims by migrants who traverse other countries en route to the US-Mexico border and closely track migrant families released into the US during the deportation process. The asylum rule, though, quickly drew a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union and others who said it echoes Trump-era policy, breaks with US and international law and puts vulnerable migrants in harm’s way.

Here are the latest developments during the first chaotic hours of the new US immigration enforcement policy:

  • There was no “substantial increase overnight or an influx at midnight” of migrants after the end of Title 42, Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy Blas Nuñez-Neto told reporters Friday.
  • Mexico Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the number of migrants in the border city of Ciudad Juarez was about 10,000 people, with about 5,500 counted in Matamoros – the same as earlier in the week. About 500 migrants gathered in Tijuana. Migrant flows dropped in recent days, he said, describing the border situation as “calm and normal.”
  • Mayorkas said on “CNN This Morning” the border situation reflects “a fundamentally broken immigration system that hasn’t been fixed for more than two decades” and the need for “Congress to provide us with the resources that we need.”
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement said late Thursday it is adding 5,000 detention beds and eliminating Covid-19 tests requirements for detainees.
  • The legal wrangling includes a federal lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union against Orange and Rockland counties for blocking the arrival of asylum seekers from New York City. The counties issued executive orders barring hotels from making rooms available to migrants.
  • New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday asked for federal government assistance with constructing and operating temporary shelters “in anticipation of several thousand asylum seekers arriving in New York City every week.”

As of Friday afternoon, about 23,400 migrants were in Border Patrol custody, slightly lower than earlier in the week, according to a Homeland Security official.

In El Paso, Texas, about 1,000 migrants waited Thursday afternoon to be processed outside border gate 42, US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said, beyond the 1,500 who were processed by border agents the previous two days.

Among them was a woman with a cut on her hand from barbed wire she’d just crossed along the border, she told CNN. A friend pointed to his ankle, revealing a gaping wound, and continued walking toward immigration authorities.

“The situation is tough in our countries,” the man told CNN, explaining why he’d made the journey.

Activity at the gate was much different just before noon local time on Friday. It was mostly empty except for a few arriving migrants. The last group of men who had been waiting there were taken into custody, patted down and escorted to a bus for processing.

This isn’t the first time El Paso has seen an influx at the border, and responding every few months to such swells is not sustainable, Mayor Oscar Leeser told CNN Thursday.

“We can’t continue to do this for eternity,” he said.

While the “huge rush” expected the prior day hadn’t materialized Friday morning, the extent of migrant crossings in the coming days remains uncertain, Lesser told “CNN This Morning” on Friday.

“We still need to continue to prepare for the unknown because we don’t know what’s coming in tomorrow,” he said. “We don’t know what will be coming in a week from now.”

Title 42 had allowed US authorities since 2020 to swiftly expel undocumented migrants with some exceptions, ostensibly to stop the spread of Covid-19. Under it, authorities expelled migrants at the US-Mexico border more than 2.8 million times, according to US Customs and Border Protection data.

With the policy lapsing alongside the country’s public health emergency, the US now is leaning instead on a decades-old protocol with new wrinkles: Title 8, which could carry heavier legal consequences for those crossing unlawfully but often takes more time than Title 42 expulsions.

Just before Title 42 expired, the US warned migrants the change does not mean the way is clear for unlawful entry: “Do not believe the lies of smugglers. The border is not open,” Mayorkas said.

Border community leaders plead for help

With migrants said to be crowded at the border, leaders of US border towns continue to plead for help meeting the migrants’ needs as makeshift encampments proliferate and social services are pushed to the brink.

Laredo’s mayor worries for migrants’ safety, noting Laredo does not have a permanent pediatric intensive care unit, he said.

“I don’t want to see any child get gravely ill and not be able to treat them,” Treviño said.

Yuma, Arizona, has seen daily migrant arrivals climb in the last month from 300 to 1,000 or more, Mayor Douglas Nicholls said. He wants a federal emergency declaration to provide “not just money but resources on the ground,” he told reporters Thursday.

“A full response by (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the National Guard, like they would in any other disaster where they provide boots on the ground for housing, food, transportation, and health care – that would be the beginning,” Nichols said.

The border crisis was “avoidable for a long time” – if immigration reform been put in place – Treviño said. Now, his community is paying a price.

“At the end of the day, what has always been a federal problem for decades now has become a local problem for our border communities,” Treviño said.

Migrants camp out in an alley behind the Sacred Heart Church in downtown El Paso on April 30.
Migrants wait to be processed by US Border Patrol agents in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on April 26.
Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to return to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Saturday, May 13, after members of the Texas National Guard extended razor wire to inhibit migrant crossing.

Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to return to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Saturday, May 13, after members of the Texas National Guard extended razor wire to inhibit migrant crossing.Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

Alison, a 6-year-old asylum-seeking migrant from Honduras, is held by her mother while they wait to be transported to a US Border Patrol processing facility in La Joya, Texas, on May 13.
US Border Patrol agents watch over migrants that turned themselves in after crossing from Mexico as they wait to take a bus to a processing center in Fronton, Texas, on Friday, May 12.
A group of men from El Salvador are detained by US Border Patrol agents after crossing from Mexico near Sunland Park, New Mexico, on May 12.
Migrants reach through a border wall for clothing handed out by volunteers near San Diego on May 12.
A US Border Patrol agent searches a man from Mexico who crossed the border illegally near Sunland Park on May 12.
Ligia Garcia her husband, Robert Castellon, walk with their children Raibelis,Castellon and Romer Castellon to buy food after they were processed by US border officials in McAllen, Texas, on May 12.
Paula, a woman from Guatemala, holds her daughter as she asks US border officials about the new asylum rules at the San Ysidro Port of Entry between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, on Thursday, May 11.
Migrants gather on the banks of the Rio Grande in Matamoros on May 11 as they get ready to cross the border to turn themselves in.
Merejido Del Orbe, who came to the United States from the Dominican Republic, rests at Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso, Texas, on May 11. He broke his leg when he slipped from a rope while climbing a border fence in April.
Texas National Guard soldiers place more razor wire on the banks of the Rio Grande in Matamoros on May 11.
A group of migrants from Peru react after crossing the border just a few minutes before the lifting of Title 42 in Yuma, Arizona, on May 11.
As the sun sets on May 11, migrants wait to be processed by US Border Patrol agents across the border from El Paso.
Migrants released by US border officials are seen at a cell phone charging station at the Regional Center for Border Health in Somerton, Arizona, on May 11.
Migrants surrender to the US Border Patrol in Yuma on May 11.
Erick Torres and his son Benjamin, migrants from Peru, wait to be processed by US Border Patrol agents in Yuma on May 11.
Migrants load onto an air mattress in Matamoros to prepare to cross the Rio Grande toward Brownsville, Texas, on May 11.
Migrants board a bus after surrendering to US Border Patrol agents in Yuma on May 11.
A US Border Patrol agent looks on as migrants wait to apply for asylum near San Diego on May 11.
Norma Garcia Bonilla, from Michoacán, Mexico, waits at Albergue del Desierto, a migrant shelter in Mexicali, Mexico, across from the California border, on Wednesday, May 10. She is seeking asylum in the United States.
Hundreds of migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, wait to cross into the United States on May 10.
Migrants carry a baby in a suitcase across the Rio Grande on May 10.
A migrant tears up behind a border wall near San Diego on May 10.
Members of the Texas National Guard are deployed to an area of high migrant crossings in Brownsville on May 10.
Wendy Velasquez and her 21-month-old daughter, Starley Dominguez Velasquez, have been living for five months at the Albergue del Desierto migrant shelter in Mexicali. They came from Honduras to apply for asylum in the United States.
Migrants wait to get paid after washing cars at a gas station in Brownsville on May 10. They had arrived the day before from Mexico.
Migrants surrender to US Border Patrol agents after crossing the border in Yuma on May 10.
Migrants cross the Rio Grande from Matamoros on May 10.
Migrants gather between primary and secondary border fences near San Diego on May 10.
Migrants stand in line as they wait to be processed by US Border Patrol agents in Brownsville on May 10.
A migrant climbs over a border wall separating Tijuana from the United States after fetching groceries for other migrants who were waiting to be processed by US authorities on May 10.
A heart-shaped keychain with a photo of Salvadoran migrant Danilo Ruiz and his family hangs from a handbag at a makeshift shelter in Reynosa, Mexico, on Tuesday, May 9.
Migrant families cross into El Paso from Mexico on Monday, May 8.
A US Border Patrol agent watches over migrants who had gathered in San Diego on May 8.
A woman is helped off a freight train after she became too scared to climb down from the roof on Sunday, May 7. <a href=

Migrants who were trying to evade US Border Patrol agents wait to be processed in Granjeno, Texas, on May 4.
Children play soccer at a shelter in Tijuana on May 3. Their families were awaiting the end of Title 42.
Migrants camp out in an alley behind the Sacred Heart Church in downtown El Paso on April 30.
Migrants wait to be processed by US Border Patrol agents in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on April 26.
Migrants cross the Rio Bravo to return to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Saturday, May 13, after members of the Texas National Guard extended razor wire to inhibit migrant crossing.
Alison, a 6-year-old asylum-seeking migrant from Honduras, is held by her mother while they wait to be transported to a US Border Patrol processing facility in La Joya, Texas, on May 13.
In pictures: The surge at the US-Mexico border

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Biden administration plans policy changes

A court ruling late Thursday took away a tool the Biden administration had intended to use to manage the number of migrants in US Customs and Border Protection custody. A federal judge in Florida temporarily blocked the administration from releasing migrants from Border Patrol custody without court notices; the administration is expected to appeal.

The administration had prepared to release some apprehended migrants without court dates and a requirement to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement amid immense strain on border facilities, according to the Department of Homeland Security. It has previously done so when facing a surge of migrants after they’re screened and vetted by authorities.

The judge’s decision came in response to an emergency motion from Florida, which has previously taken issue with the release of migrants from custody. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled for May 19, according to the judge’s order.

Customs and Border Protection will comply with the order, it said early Friday, but called it a “harmful ruling that will result in unsafe overcrowding at CBP facilities and undercut our ability to efficiently process and remove migrants, and risks creating dangerous conditions for border patrol agents and migrants.”

Nuñez-Neto on Friday expressed “concern” about the Florida lawsuit’s impact on “our ability to process people quickly given the elevated encounter levels we are facing.”

Nuñez-Neto warned of the potential for “unsafe overcrowding at CBP facilities” and risk of “dangerous conditions for Border Patrol agents as well as non-citizens in our custody.”

The expectation among US officials has been that Biden’s new asylum rule may slow down crossings as migrants try to figure out what it means for them, a source familiar with the planning said. In the interim, officials – in their planning – expected parole on a case-by-case basis might become available again.

The concern, however, is that families may send their children across the border alone since unaccompanied minors are exempt from the new asylum rule. The Health and Human Services Department, which is charged with the care of migrant children, has expanded capacity in anticipation of any surge.

This would not be the first time that migrant mothers self-separate from their children in response to immigration policies that don’t apply to unaccompanied children. CNN reported on mothers self-separating from their children in 2021 in response to Title 42 – which also did not apply to unaccompanied minors.

Migrants describe long, grueling wait at the U.S. Border

05:57 – Source: CNN

As Title 42 let border authorities swiftly turn away migrants at the US-Mexico border – often depriving them of the chance to claim asylum and dramatically cutting down on border processing time – it also carried almost no legal consequences for migrants crossing, meaning if they were pushed back, they could try to cross again and again.

Now, US officials will lean more on the decades-old Title 8, under which migrants could face more severe consequences for crossing the border unlawfully, such as being barred from entering the US for at least five years, they’ve said.

While Title 8 carries more legal consequences, including prosecution for those caught a second time, processing times under that authority take longer than Title 42 expulsions and could strain already pinched resources.

Title 8 allows for migrants to seek asylum, which can be a lengthy and drawn-out process that begins with what’s called a credible-fear screening by asylum officers before migrants’ cases wend through immigration courts.

The administration is also introducing new measures. A new regulation going into effect this week would largely ban migrants who traveled through other countries on their way to the US-Mexico border from applying for asylum in the United States – with some exceptions.

The rule, proposed earlier this year, will presume migrants are ineligible for asylum in the US if they didn’t first seek refuge in a country they transited through, like Mexico, on the way to the border. Migrants who secure an appointment through the Customs and Border Protection One app will be exempt, according to officials.

The State Department plans eventually to open around 100 regional processing centers in the Western Hemisphere and “in the coming days” expects to launch an online platform for immigrants to make appointments, Homeland Security officials said.

The rule is a necessary measure to stem the flow of migration while offering other legal pathways for migrants to come to the US, Biden administration officials have said. But the ACLU in its lawsuit disagreed:

“The Biden administration’s new ban places vulnerable asylum seekers in grave danger and violates US asylum laws. We’ve been down this road before with Trump,” Katrina Eiland, managing attorney with the nonprofit’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “The asylum bans were cruel and illegal then, and nothing has changed now.”

The ACLU, along with the ACLU of Northern California, the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and the National Immigrant Justice Center sued in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Biden administration is also rolling out a new program for migrant families released in the United States to track them as they go through a speedy deportation process, including a measure that would require they stay under home confinement, sources familiar with the plans said.

Source : CNN News


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