Borders seem peaceful after pandemic asylum restrictions lifted – wake-up call


EL PASO, Texas (AP) — The U.S.-Mexico border was relatively calm on Friday, amid feared chaos as a flood of worried immigrants entered the U.S. before pandemic-related travel restrictions ended. Few signs were seen.

Less than 24 hours after the rules known as Title 42 were lifted, immigrants and government officials are still concerned about the impact of the changes and new regulations adopted by President Joe Biden’s administration to stabilize the region. evaluated the impact of

“We didn’t see a significant increase in immigration this morning,” said Bras Nunes Neto, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security. He said the agency did not have specific figures.

Migrants along the border continued to encroach on the Rio Grande for a chance to enter the United States, resisting officials yelling to turn back. Others crouched in front of their phones to access the new system’s centerpiece, an appointment scheduling app. Promised immigrants crossed the bridge in hopes of a new life. And the lawsuit sought an injunction against some measures.

The Biden administration said the revamped system was aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants and providing new legal avenues for migrants who pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to bring them to the border. . Biden on Friday praised Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for working with the United States and Canada to establish a migration hub in Latin America where asylum seekers can apply for asylum.

Currently, immigrants are essentially barred from seeking asylum in the United States unless they first apply online or seek asylum in the destination country. Families allowed into the country as immigration progresses face curfews and GPS surveillance.

Across the river from El Paso, in Ciudad Juárez, many immigrants turned to cellphones in hopes of getting the much-needed promise of entry. Some had changed the application form for US immigration and were explaining to others how to use it. Most gave up and waited.

“Hopefully things get a little better and bookings are streamlined a little more,” said Yeremy Depablos, 21, a Venezuelan traveling with seven cousins ​​and waiting in the city for a month. ) said. Fearing deportation, DePablos did not want to enter the country illegally. “It has to be done in a legal way,” he said.

The legal channel promoted by the administration consists of a program that allows up to 30,000 people a month to enter if they apply online with financial sponsors from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela and enter through the airport.

About 100 processing centers have been opened in Guatemala, Colombia and elsewhere for migrants applying to travel to the United States, Spain and Canada. Up to 1,000 people can enter Mexico by land every day if they can make a reservation through the app.

If the system works, it could fundamentally change the way migrants come to the southern border. But Biden, who is running for re-election, faces numbing criticism from immigration advocates who say he has abandoned more humanitarian measures and Republicans who say he is lax on border security. are doing.

At the Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana on Friday, several migrants who were unable to access the booking app notified US authorities. One of them, a Salvadoran man named Jairo, said he had fled death threats and returned to his hometown.

“We are really scared,” said Jairo, who was traveling with her partner and three-year-old son, but declined to give her last name. “We can’t stay in Mexico any longer, and we can’t go back to Guatemala or El Salvador. If the United States can’t take us, I hope they can direct us to another country where we can.” increase.”

Further east, a small group of Haitian migrants with promised asylum claims crossed the Gateway International Bridge, which connects Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas. With the support of non-governmental organizations, they crossed across the usual commuter trains of students and workers that lined the sidewalk of the bridge.

In downtown El Paso, dozens of migrants remained outside the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and shelter, with about 2,000 migrants camped by Tuesday. Religious leaders in the city are trying to provide refuge, legal advice and prayers for migrants overcoming the new restrictions.

Pastor Daniel Mora said most of the migrants left the country after heeding leaflets distributed by U.S. immigration officials this week offering a “last chance” to submit to the process. El Paso Mayor Oscar Reeser said 1,800 immigrants turned themselves in to Customs and Border Protection on Thursday.

El Paso Diocese Immigration and Refugee Services Executive Director Melissa Lopez said that while many immigrants follow the federally mandated legal pathway, deportation and criminal penalties for those who cross the border illegally are unavoidable. There are concerns about the possibility, he said. .

Ruben Garcia, director of the Annunciation House in El Paso and coordinator of the Regional Network of Migrant Asylums, said migrants transiting Mexico were forced into desolate areas of the border far from cities with humanitarian infrastructure by smugglers. He said he was worried that he might be diverted to He said thousands of migrants are now moving through two U.S. immigration processing centers in El Paso amid uncertainty about subsequent deportations and supervised release.

The border crossing stagnation follows a recent surge in border crossings by immigrants hoping to be allowed to stay in the United States before Title 42 restrictions expire.

Title 42, which has been in effect since March 2020, allows border officials to expedite the return of asylum seekers across the border to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The United States has declared the end of the national emergency and lifted restrictions.

Title 42 prevented many from applying for asylum, but it had no legal repercussions and encouraged reapplication. After Thursday, immigrants will be barred from entering the United States for five years and face criminal prosecution.

Border holding facilities were already well over capacity as Title 42 expired. Authorities had ordered the release of immigrants with notice to report to immigration authorities if overcrowding or other factors became serious.

But late Thursday, a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump temporarily halted the administration’s plans to release people to the United States and set a trial date on whether to extend the sentence. Customs and Border Protection said it would comply, but said it was a “harmful ruling leading to dangerous overcrowding.”

Other parts of the administration’s immigration program were also at legal risk.

Advocacy groups, including the ACLU, sued the regime minutes before the new asylum rules took effect. Their lawsuit, which claims the administration’s policies are no different from those adopted by President Trump, was dismissed by the same court.

The Biden administration has argued that its rules are different, not an outright ban, but one that imposes a higher burden of proof to obtain asylum, and one that combines restrictions with other newly opened legal avenues. claims to be.

Maribel Hernández Rivera, director of national politics at the ACLU, said many of the new measures were unrealistic.

“You don’t plan to go into exile when you’re running for your life,” she says.


Gonzalez reported from Brownsville, Texas, and Spagatto from Tijuana, Mexico. Washington-based Associated Press reporters Colleen Long and Rebecca Santana. Christopher Sherman of Mexico City. Julie Watson and Suman Naishadam in Tijuana, Mexico. Gerardo Carrillo of Matamoros, Mexico. Maria Belza in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Gisela Salomon of Miami. and Morgan Lee of Santa Fe, New Mexico contributed to this report. Borders seem peaceful after pandemic asylum restrictions lifted – wake-up call

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