Migrants rush across the US border in the final hours before Title 42 expires

MATAMOROS, Mexico (AP) — Migrants poured across the Mexican border on Thursday, attempting to enter the United States before pandemic-related asylum restrictions are lifted. This threatens to be an historic strain on the country’s ailing immigration system.

A potentially serious legal setback was inflicted on the Biden administration late Thursday when a federal judge temporarily blocked its attempt to release migrants more quickly when Border Patrol detention centers are full.

The approaching end of the rules known as Title 42 raised concerns among migrants that the changes would make it more difficult for them to stay in the US

With the late-night deadline looming, misinformation and confusion swept migrants as they paced the Rio Grande border, often unsure of where to go or what to do next.

In Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, droves of migrants — some with young children in their arms — waded through the headstream’s currents, squeezing through thickets until they faced a border fortified with barbed wire. Other migrants have settled into emergency shelters in northern Mexico, determined to secure an asylum appointment that can take months to arrange online.

Many migrants were aware of upcoming policy changes aimed at stopping illegal border crossings and encouraging asylum seekers to apply online and consider alternative destinations such as Canada or Spain.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said Jhoan Daniel Barrios, a former Venezuelan military police officer, as he and two friends paced the border in Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, Texas, looking for an opportunity seek refuge in the United States

“We’re out of money, we’re out of food, we’re out of shelter, the cartel is after us,” said Barrios, whose wife was in US custody. “What should we do? Wait till they kill us?”

Last week, Barrios and his friends entered the United States and were deported. They had little hope of a different result on Thursday.

On the US side of the river, many immediately turned themselves in to authorities and hoped to be freed while pursuing cases in crowded immigration courts that take years.

A U.S. official reported that border police stopped around 10,000 migrants on Tuesday — nearly double the number in March and just short of the 11,000 figure that authorities say is the upper limit of what they will be after Title ends 42 expect.

More than 27,000 people were in US Customs and Border Protection custody, the official said.

“Our buses are full. Our planes are full,” said Pedro Cardenas, a city commissioner in Brownsville, Texas, north of Matamoros, as the newcomers flew to locations across the United States

President Joe Biden’s administration was Unveiling tough new measures to replace Title 42which, since March 2020, has enabled border officials to quickly send asylum seekers back across the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The new guidelines tackle illegal border crossings while creating legal avenues for migrants to apply online, find a sponsor and undergo background checks. If successful, the reforms could fundamentally change the way migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border.

However, it will take time for results to show. biden gave up the border will be messy for a while. Immigrant advocacy groups have threatened legal action. And migrants fleeing poverty, gangs and persecution in their homelands are still desperate to reach US soil at any cost.

Well aware of the looming policy changes, many migrants on Thursday searched for a way to turn themselves in to U.S. immigration authorities before the 11:59 a.m. EDT deadline.

A volunteer walks along a border wall while distributing baby wipes to migrants waiting between two border walls to apply for asylum in San Diego, Thursday, May 11, 2023. Many of the hundreds of migrants between the walls separating Tijuana, Mexico, from San Diego have been waiting for days to apply for asylum. The pandemic-related US asylum restrictions, known as Title 42, expire on May 11. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
A volunteer walks along a border wall while distributing baby wipes to migrants waiting between two border walls to apply for asylum in San Diego, Thursday, May 11, 2023. Many of the hundreds of migrants between the walls separating Tijuana, Mexico, from San Diego have been waiting for days to apply for asylum. The pandemic-related US asylum restrictions, known as Title 42, expire on May 11. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

According to a US official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, detention facilities along the border had been stretched far beyond their capacity and border patrol agents were ordered to begin releasing some migrants with orders within 60 days to appear before US immigration authorities, The Associated Press provided information on condition of anonymity.

Agents were also told to begin releases in any area where detention facilities were at 125% occupancy or where the average detention time exceeded 60 hours. In addition, releases could begin if 7,000 migrants were detained across the border in one day.

Late Thursday, a federal judge granted a motion by the state of Florida to temporarily block the publications. The state argued that this request was essentially consistent with another government policy that had previously been invalidated in federal court. That policy directed the Biden administration to end the expedited release of migrants entering the United States illegally from Mexico.

The government had argued in the new case that blocking releases would limit the government’s ability to manage the border at a time when arrivals are expected to surge dramatically, which could overwhelm border facilities.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has warned that border patrol facilities will be even more crowded.

“I cannot stress enough the strain on our staff and facilities,” he told reporters Thursday.

He said that the vast majority of migrants would be placed in an “expedited deportation” process and quickly deported if they did not meet the requirements to stay in the US. “We have confidence in the legality of our actions,” he said.

While the migrants tried to reach US soil before the rules expired, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the smugglers were sending a different message. He noted an increase in smugglers on his country’s southern border offering to take migrants into the United States, telling them the border would be open from Thursday.

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On Wednesday, This was announced by the Homeland Security Agency a rule that makes it extremely difficult for anyone passing through another country like Mexico or who hasn’t applied online to qualify for asylum. It also introduced curfews with GPS tracking for families released before the first asylum reviews in the US.

The government says it is stepping up deportations of migrants who are not qualified to stay in the US on flights that carried nearly 400 migrants from the US to Guatemala on Thursday.

Among them was Sheidi Mazariegos, 26, who arrived near Brownsville with her four-year-old son just eight days after her arrest.

“I heard on the news that there was a way to get in, I heard it on the radio, but it was all a lie,” she said. Smugglers brought them to Matamoros and put the two on a raft. They were quickly arrested by border guards.

Mazariegos said she did the trek because she was poor and hoped to reunite with her sisters who live in the United States

At the same time, the government has introduced far-reaching new legal routes into the United States

Up to 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela can enter if they apply online to a financial sponsor and enter through an airport. Processing centers open in Guatemala, Colombia and elsewhere. Up to 1,000 people can enter Mexico daily via land crossings if they can get an appointment in an online app.

In shelters in northern Mexico, many migrants chose not to rush to the border and waited for existing asylum appointments or hoped to book an appointment online.

Hundreds of migrants waited at the Ágape Misión Mundial animal shelter in Tijuana. Daisy Bucia, 37, and her 15-year-old daughter arrived at the shelter from Mexico’s Michoacán state over three months ago – fleeing death threats – and have an asylum appointment in California on Saturday.

Bucia read on social media that the pandemic-era restrictions ended at the U.S.-Mexico border, but preferred to safely cross the border later.

“What people want more than anything is to confuse you,” Bucia said.

Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Rebecca Santana in Washington; Christopher Sherman in Mexico City; Gerardo Carrillo in Matamoros, Mexico; Maria Verza in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Giovanna Dell’Orto in El Paso; and Elliot Spagat in Tijuana, Mexico, contributed to this report.

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