In Hours Before Title 42 Expired, Migrants Rushed Across US Border

And White House must now deal with 'a potentially serious legal setback'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2023 12:00 AM CDT
Migrants Rushed Across Border in the Hours Before Title 42 Expired
A Texas National Guard soldier provides security around migrants gathered around a gate in the border fence in El Paso, Texas, in the early hours of Thursday, May 11, 2023.   (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Migrants rushed across the Mexico border Thursday, racing to enter the US before pandemic-related asylum restrictions were lifted one minute before midnight Eastern time in a shift that threatens to put a historic strain on the nation’s beleaguered immigration system. The imminent end of the rules known as Title 42 had stirred fear among migrants that the changes would make it more difficult for them to stay in the US, the AP reports. With a late-night deadline looming, misinformation and confusion buffeted migrants as they paced the border at the Rio Grande, often unsure of where to go or what to do next. While Title 42 prevented many from seeking asylum, it carried no legal consequences, encouraging repeat attempts. After Thursday, migrants face being barred from entering the US for five years and possible criminal prosecution.

At Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, throngs of migrants—some clutching small children—waded across spring river currents, pushed through thickets to confront a border fortified with razor wire. On the US side of the river, many surrendered immediately to authorities and hoped to be released while pursuing their cases in backlogged immigration courts, which takes years. Other migrants settled into shelters in northern Mexico, determined to secure an asylum appointment that can take months to schedule online. Many migrants were acutely aware of looming policy changes designed to stop illegal crossings and encourage asylum seekers to apply online and consider alternative destinations, including Canada or Spain.

It was not clear how many migrants were on the move or how long the surge might last. By Thursday evening, the flow seemed to be slowing in some locations, but it was not clear why, or whether crossings would increase again after the coronavirus-related restrictions expire. Meanwhile, the Biden administration was dealt a potentially serious legal setback when a federal judge temporarily blocked its attempt to release migrants more quickly when Border Patrol holding stations are full; the facilities along the border already are far beyond capacity, the AP reports. The judge blocked the releases for two weeks and scheduled a May 19 hearing on whether to extend his order. (More of the latest here.)

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