As Covid-19 restrictions end and new rules kick in, asylum seekers flock to U.S.-Mexico border

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — The Biden administration will begin denying asylum to immigrants on Thursday. People arriving at the US-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in the country they passed through. It marks a fundamental shift in immigration policy as the U.S. prepares for the end of a major pandemic control.

Asylum seekers are showing up at the border in large numbers in anticipation of the Title 42 restriction being invoked later this week. That provision has allowed the government to quickly deport immigrants to Mexico. U.S. officials warned of tough days ahead as a program linked to the COVID-19 pandemic expires this week.

The rule announced Wednesday is part of new measures to crack down on illegal border crossings while creating new legal routes. Families crossing the border face curfews and surveillance; The head of the family wears an ankle bracelet as their cases are heard within 30 days.

But there is a plan to open 100 regional migration centers across the Western Hemisphere and grant humanitarian parole to 30,000 people a month to enter the country from four countries. U.S. officials have taken a wide range of measures, including increasing deportation flights, amid what many expect to be a significant increase in the number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Our plan will deliver results, but it will take time for those results to be fully realized,” warned Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorgas.

Many immigrants, fueled by concerns that staying in the U.S. will soon become more difficult, have tried to cross before Title 42 expires, before the new rule takes effect late Thursday.

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Under Title 42, border officials have quickly turned people away — they did so 2.8 million times since March 2020. But after the restrictions expire Thursday, immigrants who cross illegally will not be allowed to return for five years. Doing so could result in them facing criminal charges.

At the Rio Grande in Matamoros on Wednesday, migrants arrived steadily. Many people climbed down holding plastic bags filled with clothes before descending the steep river bank. As more migrants arrived they slowly waded into the river, some crossing themselves before following the line across the flowing border. A family cradled a small child inside an open suitcase. A man kept it on his head as a precaution. The other children climbed on their shoulders. On the American side they made their way ashore, pausing to put on dry suits before making their way carefully through rows of concertina wires.

In Ciudad Juarez, migrants arrived this week in small groups by train or bus and left daily to surrender to U.S. authorities.

Fran Dover, a 30-year-old electrician from Venezuela who tried to reach the United States after leaving two children behind, was deported on his first attempt. He tried again 24 hours later, with the goal of passing the Title 42 application before it expired.

“There’s fear and anguish,” Dover said Wednesday, adding that he spent three months in Juarez to get an appointment through an app the U.S. encourages immigrants to use to show up at a border entry point and get a permit.

About 10,000 people were arrested by Border Patrol agents on Tuesday, one of the biggest fears in a single day, a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. More than 27,000 people have been detained. Detention numbers vary when migrants are released or deported, but 8,600 people were in Border Patrol custody in March.

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Miguel Meza, head of migrant programs for Catholic Relief Services, which has 26 migrant shelters across Mexico, estimated on Wednesday that there were about 55,000 migrants from the United States in border towns. The shelter is “full,” he said, and the migrants are spreading to the areas around them.

The move announced Wednesday is a key part of the U.S. strategy to address border crossings even when Title 42 was in effect. While stopping short of a total ban, it imposes stricter limits on asylum For illegal crossers who do not seek legal passage first. It includes exceptional room and is not suitable for children traveling alone. It was first announced in February.

A federal appeals court blocked similar but stricter measures In 2019, then-President Donald Trump took effect.

Human rights organizations have said they plan to file a case soon.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Katrina Eiland said, “This provision will expose people to serious harm.

He said it would leave migrants stranded in northern Mexico. He said the rule was based on the idea that immigrants could seek protection in another country or make an online appointment to seek asylum in the United States. He said there were serious problems with both of those options.

US officials said they plan to open regional centers around the hemisphere, Immigrants can apply to move to the United States, Canada or Spain. Two centers in Guatemala and Colombia were previously announced. It is not clear where the other locations will be. Administration officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss current border plans, which have not yet been made public.

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Most people crossing the US-Mexico border are fleeing persecution or poverty in their home countries. Migrants and groups working with them noted a swirl of rumors and misinformation from traffickers that makes it difficult for migrants to understand what they are doing.

In Matamoros, Carmen Josefina Characo Lopez said she arrived a month ago and is trying to schedule an appointment to seek asylum using the U.S. government’s app.

“People who are coming in now are starting to hear stories from other people who have been here a long time, and they are starting to get scared. ‘Oh, you have been here for four months. Well, I’ve just arrived, I’m going to cross.’ That is also a difficult situation,” she said.


Long reported from Washington and Lee from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Associated Press writers Rebecca Santana in Washington; Gerardo Carrillo in Reynosa, Mexico; and Elliott Spacott in San Diego contributed to this report.

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