After Title 42 expired, fewer than anticipated migrants arrived at the border, but officials remain on high alert.
Despite warnings of a potential influx of migrants, which sent thousands of federal personnel to the southern border and US cities scurrying to prepare, the days following the expiration of Title 42 witnessed a significantly smaller influx of migrants.
Officials cautioned that the expiration of the Covid-related border restriction policy, which permitted authorities to quickly turn away migrants at the US-Mexico border, could exacerbate the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. In the days leading up to its expiration, lengthy lines formed at checkpoints, and makeshift border camps proliferated.
On Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CNN’s Dana Bash that the number of migrant encounters along the border had decreased by 50 percent over the previous two days compared to earlier in the week, when the Title 42 policy was in effect. US and Mexican officials report that the Biden administration’s warnings to asylum-seekers and demonstrations of immigration enforcement have deterred more illegal border crossings.
A senior Homeland Security official told reporters on Monday that the situation at the frontier is “very fluid.”
During a Monday briefing, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Border and Immigration Policy Blas Nuez-Neto stated that it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, but hoped that the decrease in border encounters reflected an understanding of the new consequences in place for unlawful entry at the border as well as the enforcement actions being taken by our foreign partners.
Nuez-Neto stated that the United States has deported thousands of individuals, including over 2,400 to Mexico in the past three days.
There were approximately 6,300 border encounters on Friday and 4,200 on Saturday, according to Mayorkas, who added that the number was approximately 10,000 before the Title 42 policy was terminated.
Officials caution that it is too soon to determine if the influx of migrants at the border has crested.
Long and perilous journeys are undertaken by the majority of those who abandon their homes for the United States in search of better, safer lives. According to experts, some may be fleeing violence, while others may be immigrating for economic opportunities or family reunification.
Families in El Paso, Texas, spent Mother’s Day in purgatory at a shelter. According to migrant mothers who spoke to CNN, their maternal instinct led them to undertake the dangerous journeys to the United States.
A parent will do anything to ensure the safety of their children,” said Conny Barahona, a Honduran immigrant who was staying at the shelter with her 9-year-old son. She waited there for her 18-year-old and 20-year-old daughters before continuing on to their next destination.
US communities prepare
Even though the number of migrants in U.S. cities is lower than anticipated, they are preparing space and resources for a potential influx.
Since Title 42 terminated a week ago, non-profit organizations in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas report a significant decrease in the number of migrants. Laredo, Texas, remains on “high alert,” according to the city’s mayor, Victor Trevio, who told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday that its hospitals were close to capacity before Title 42 expired.
El Paso, which has seen hundreds of migrants resting on sidewalks due to a recent increase in arrivals, has experienced a “smooth transition” out of Title 42, according to Mayor Oscar Leeser, but the city is still preparing for what the future may bring.
Board members of the Brownsville Independent School District in Texas voted unanimously on Monday to table a proposal to use vacant school campuses as migrant transition centers, and asked city officials to provide more information, including a timeline for campus use and details on security for campus and neighborhoods, in response to residents’ concerns about the potential impacts on neighboring communities.
Concerned that an influx of migrants will burden resources, mayors of other U.S. cities are requesting federal assistance. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock all signed a letter to President Biden requesting a meeting to discuss the situation.
The nearly three-year-closed Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, will reemerge as an arrival and resource center for incoming migrants. According to a statement from the mayor’s office, the hotel will open 175 rooms for children and families this week, with plans to increase capacity to approximately 850 rooms.
The city reports that it is presently caring for approximately 35,000 migrants.
“Without federal or state assistance, we will be unable to continue treating new arrivals and those already here with the dignity and care that they deserve,” said Mayor Eric Adams in a statement released on Saturday.
On Sunday evening in Washington, DC, a busload of migrants arrived at the Naval Observatory. The bus originated in Texas, according to an unnamed source with knowledge of the situation who was not authorized to speak on the record.
As an insult to President Biden’s border policies, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has bused thousands of migrants to cities governed by Democrats since last year. Recent weeks have seen at least two vehicles arrive at the Naval Observatory as a result of his increased efforts.
The Department of Homeland Security had a plan to permit the release of migrants from CBP custody without court dates or, in some cases, with conditions, claiming it would alleviate the tremendous strain on already congested border facilities.
Florida sued to stop the policy, and on Thursday, just before Title 42 expired, District Judge T. Kent Wetherell consented to block the policy for two weeks.
A federal judge in Florida denied the Justice Department’s request to suspend the court ruling on Monday, dealing the administration another setback.
In the submission, the administration emphasized that it requires mechanisms to release migrants due to capacity constraints. In the alternative, the Department of Justice argued, the Department of Homeland Security could arrest migrants and release them with notices to report, which have no concomitant enforcement mechanism, or “worst-case scenario, decline to apprehend certain border-crossers altogether.”
Administration of Biden’s tough rhetoric
The Biden administration has warned of dire consequences for asylum seekers who circumvent legal channels. According to community leaders and officials in Mexico, this type of rhetoric and the administration’s exhibition of immigration enforcement discourages more migrants from illegally crossing the border.
Tijuana’s director of migrant affairs, Enrique Lucero, attributes the decline in illicit border crossings to the Biden administration’s messaging and the Mexican government’s deployment of the national guard to the border. “We’ve seen images of (deportation) planes that have arrived in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras,” Lucero said. “The five-year reentry ban has opened the eyes of migrants.”
The five-year prohibition on reentry that Lucero mentioned is one of the potential legal consequences migrants face if they are deported from the United States under Title 8 immigration processing. After Title 42 expired last week, US immigration officials reverted to the decades-old Title 8 protocol.
Pastor Hector Silva operates two prominent migrant shelters in the northern Mexican city of Reynosa, and he reports that information about the repercussions of illegally entering the United States is also spreading online, through various discussion groups. “If you cross, you will be deported,” some of the online messages warn, according to Silva.
“They (migrants) believed that with the end of Title 42, the border would be open; however, they have realized that this is not the case,” Lucero stated.
Lucero stated that in Tijuana, smugglers have facilitated illegal crossings by charging migrants approximately $500; however, the presence of the Mexican National Guard on Mexico’s northern frontier, which began last Wednesday, has reduced the presence of these illegal groups.
Lucero stated that there are approximately 6,000 migrants in the city’s network of 31 shelters, and he advises them to use CPB One, a software application introduced by the Biden administration in January and expanded following the lifting of Title 42 last week. It enables certain migrants to schedule legal entry through a port of entry.
“The recommendation is CBP One, the only regular, orderly, and secure path to asylum in the United States,” Lucero said.But in both Reynosa and Tijuana, migrants become impatient due to the scarcity of available appointments, according to Silva and Lucero.Lucero noted that the 6,000 migrants in Tijuana vying for approximately 240 CBP appointments. Each day, one appointment is made available in the area.