- Bernd Debussmann Jr. and Chris Partridge
- El Paso – Texas
7 hours ago
Migrants at the US-Mexico border face an uncertain future, starting on Friday, after the expiry of an immigration provision approved during the Corona pandemic.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorcas said in a statement that authorities had “prepared for this transition.”
Before the deadline, tensions gripped the border town of El Paso as makeshift migrant camps have been largely removed from the city’s streets.
However, local authorities and humanitarian organizations are preparing for a crisis that could make it difficult to manage the flow of migrants.
The city’s mayor, Oscar Lesser, warned that there are 10,000 migrants waiting for the chance to cross from the Mexican town of El Paso into the United States.
About 60,000 people are believed to be waiting along the southern border to cross to the other side, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told CBS.
“We’re stocking up on food and supplies as much as possible,” said Nicole Roulet, director of marketing at a local immigrant nursing home in El Paso.
“Nobody really knows what to expect, or what the numbers are going to look like. That makes it difficult for us to prepare,” she added.
On Thursday, about 25,000 immigrants were detained by the border guards, which is far beyond the capacity of the agency.
Officials planned to release the migrants in order to reduce the number of detainees, and required them to report to the immigration office within 60 days. But a federal judge in Florida stopped that effort.
Migrants in El Paso told the BBC they rushed to the border before the procedures changed, unsure what the new policy would be and confused by rumors and misinformation.
Among them is John Uzcategui and his girlfriend, both 24, from Venezuela. The young man and his girlfriend said that they felt frustrated, after several attempts to book an appointment to request asylum through an application for customs and border guards failed.
They said smugglers and other migrants told them – falsely – that they would be deported immediately if they proceeded through US Customs and Border Patrol, prompting them to try to cross the checkpoints illegally.
“We trusted them and started moving to the US. But we were stopped at the checkpoint,” said Ozcategi, who was released after his asylum request was heard.
“All the migrants were talking about May 11. But there were many rumours. We just knew something was changing.”
Away from the border, other cities – including Chicago and New York – have reported struggling to cope with the large number of migrants arriving from the southern border.--
Under Article 42, US authorities could have turned away migrants crossing the border from Mexico – including asylum seekers – using the pandemic as a justification.
About 2.8 million people have been deported since Section 42 went into effect in March 2020, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
Before it expired, US officials unveiled a package of new measures aimed at curbing the flow of migrants, including the opening of regional follow-up centers in Latin America and expanding the use of a special program to schedule asylum applications.
However, many will face legal challenges. Illegal border crossers will be returned to their country or Mexico, denied re-entry to the United States for at least five years, and “presumed ineligible for asylum,” according to US Customs and Border Protection.
Such measures were not applied under Article 42.
“Starting tonight, people who arrive at the border without using a legal pathway will be considered ineligible for asylum,” Minister Mayorkas said in a statement just before the article expired. “We are ready to treat and remove people humanely if there is no legal basis for being at the border.” United State.”
“The borders are not open,” he added.
Although President Joe Biden warned earlier this week that the border would be “chaotic” for some time after Section 42 expires, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said he did not expect a “significant increase” in the near future.
New measures by immigration officials, and efforts to assuage the fears of local residents, have done little to reassure many of those helping migrants in El Paso.
“It will be a big challenge for us,” said Suzau Gudel, chief executive of Elbassons Food Bank, an anti-hunger group that has been feeding hundreds of migrants every day on the city’s streets.
“We are preparing, as best we can, to find the food we need, to feed people on the streets or in shelters,” she added.
She continued, “With Article 42 lifted, we believe it will be a short time before we start to see a large number of immigrants coming into the community again.”
Lifting Article 42 is likely to become a controversial political issue in the United States in the long run. House Republicans, for example, are already considering a package of immigration bills, despite the slim chance they have of passing it in a Democratic-controlled Senate.
The number of migrants at the US border has risen sharply since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021, driven in part by economic hardship, insecurity and political repression in countries such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. Since the beginning of the Biden administration, 4.6 million people have been arrested for crossing the border illegally.