EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Unaware Title 42 has not ended, several migrants are showing up at U.S. ports of entry Monday to request asylum. They are being told the public health order remains in place and are being turned back to Mexico.
Officials in Juarez initially described the northward flow as “sporadic” and said traffic was flowing smoothly for border commuters at pedestrian and automobile lanes. However, by late afternoon, a long line of migrants could be seen all along the bridge leading to the port of entry.
The federal government said Title 42 was to end on May 23, but a federal judge in Louisiana on Friday ruled the order should stay in place for now.
That gives U.S. border cities like El Paso time to catch up on preparations to process, house and transport more migrants released from U.S. immigration custody. But it also puts additional pressure on Juarez, where the number of foreign nationals waiting for the reopening of ports of entry to asylum-seekers is now in the tens of thousands.
Title 42 not being lifted “means more people are accumulating,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said on Monday. “Their shelters are full, it’s a huge burden for (Juarez). They get little resources from their government; it’s more of a community effort but they’re at a breaking point right now.”
El Paso Deputy City Manager Mario D’Agostino on Monday said state and federal officials are telling the city that the number of migrants waiting to cross into the U.S. has shot up in the past few weeks.
“Maybe a month ago they told there were about 15,000 people waiting, staying in Juarez,” he told a work session of the City Council. “That number has jumped to 60,000-plus people in the past two weeks, and we can only imagine it going up even further.”
Border Report early Monday witnessed groups of Haitians, Central Americans and Mexicans being turned back at the Paso del Norte port of entry.
Maria de Jesus, a native of Chihuahua, and three children were among them. The woman said her family is trying to flee the violence that claimed the life of her husband in 2010 and that led to the disappearance of her oldest son 15 days ago.
The asylum-seeker said she would try again later because a group of criminals has targeted her family for extortion in Juarez. “We stayed here all night, but it’s very dangerous,” the woman said. “We’ve already gone through so much. I still don’t know what happened to my son.”
Oscar P., a citizen of Guatemala, joined the line late Monday. “I have been in Juarez a year and two months and I’ve already been kidnapped,” he said. “Fifteen days ago they robbed my apartment and left me with nothing. I am here to ask for asylum because I’ve been left with nothing.”
CBP confirmed its officers on Monday encountered individuals who were unaware of the Title 42 decision.
“We will comply with the court’s order to continue enforcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 Order as long as it remains in place,” the agency said in a statement. “Meanwhile, DHS will continue to execute its comprehensive, whole-of-government plan to manage potential increases in the number of migrants encountered at our border.”
In El Paso, detention and processing centers, as well as nonprofit migrant shelters, reached a saturation point earlier this month, with a group of 119 migrants being dropped off at a Downtown bus station.
Federal officials have since “decompressed” holding facilities by flying migrants subject to Title 42 to their countries or to other cities where holding space is available.
Local officials like Samaniego said that gives El Paso an opportunity to continue preparations for whenever the courts rule that Title 42, which is a public health order to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19, should be lifted.
But asylum seekers like Alejandra C., of Fresnillo, Mexico, say they may not survive that long.
“I am running away from criminals. I was kidnapped and I’m afraid for my children because (the criminals) nowadays are even killing innocent children,” Alejandra said.
Juarez freelance photojournalist Roberto Delgado contributed to this report