Migrants hope to get their phones charged by aid workers while they wait between the primary and secondary border fences as the United States prepares to lift COVID-19 era Title 42 restrictions that have blocked migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border from seeking asylum since 2020, near San Diego, California, U.S., on Thursday.
YUMA, Arizona--Migrants gathered on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border on Thursday hours before immigration restrictions known as Title 42 expire, with some rushing to cross ahead of tough new asylum rules that will replace the COVID-era order.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has in recent days been holding up to 28,000 migrants at its facilities, far beyond its stated capacity and in what appeared to be a record, two federal officials requesting anonymity and the Border Patrol's union said. The busiest border detention facilities are in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso in Texas and two areas in Arizona, according to union President Brandon Judd. This week, the number of people caught crossing illegally surpassed 10,000 per day. Due to the high volume of arrivals, agents were releasing some migrants without a notice to appear in immigration court where they can make an asylum claim, and are telling them to report to an immigration office later, Judd said. On average, people are spending nearly three days in custody, Judd said. CBP did not respond to a request for comment.
In Yuma, Arizona, hundreds of migrants lined up in the chilly hours before dawn at a gap in the towering border fence, waiting to turn themselves in to U.S. agents. Some - like 40-year-old Jovanna Gomez from Colombia - decided to try their luck crossing now after hearing about the U.S. policy change. "In my country, you hear that immigration will only be allowed until May 11, so we came racing against the clock," she said. "It wasn't easy." Under Title 42, in place since March 2020 and set to expire at midnight, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been quickly expelled to Mexico. But because Mexico only accepted the return of certain nationalities - mostly their own citizens and Central Americans, and more recently Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans - migrants from other countries have largely been allowed in to pursue their immigration claims.
That is set to change as President Joe Biden's administration sends more personnel and funds to the border while implementing the new regulation, which will deny asylum to almost all migrants who cross illegally. The measure will bar anyone who has passed through another country without seeking refuge elsewhere or who failed to use legal pathways to enter the United States. It will take effect when Title 42 lifts, along with the declared end of the broad COVID public health emergency on Thursday.