US and Mexico Brace Border as Title 42 Expires

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On Thursday, May 11, as the U.S. government prepared to replace its expiring Title 42 border policy with a more-restrictive Title 8 policy at midnight, thousands of migrants from Latin America and across the world crowded at the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border in hopes of gaining entrance to the United States under the reinstated border policy 

The pandemic-era Title 42 policy, first implemented in March 2020 under the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the guise of preventing the spread of covid-19, allowed U.S. authorities to immediately turn away migrants at the border to return to their home countries or back into Mexico without legal consequences.

According to data from the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP), the United States turned away more than 2.8 million migrants from its border with Mexico throughout the three years of Title 42’s enforcement. Of the many migrants sent back to Mexico under Title 42, a reported 13,000 were victims of kidnappings, rapes, torture and other violent acts, said human rights organization Human Rights First.

In the face of Title 42’s expiration, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has prepared to return to the country’s decades-old Title 8 border policy, which will see migrants who attempt to enter the United States through legal CBP checkpoints either deported, detained in the custody of CBP or released into the United States as their case makes its way through the court system. 

Aiming to provide a more comprehensive and organized immigration process alongside the border policy change, the Biden administration will also reportedly enact a new immigration program that will admit at least 100,000 Latin American migrants to join their families in the United States, though additional details about the program have yet to be announced. 

Likewise, the Biden administration has pledged to double the number of migrants allowed into the United States from the western hemisphere on a monthly basis, announced plans to open new regional processing centers in migrant-heavy countries to streamline the immigration process, expanded the scope of CBP processing offices to offer 23-hour-per day appointments for those requesting asylum through the CBP One online portal and revealed a new humanitarian parole scheme that will provide 30,000 temporary work permits to migrants from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti per month.

However, unlike Title 42, the Title 8 policy enacts legal and criminal consequences for migrants caught trying to cross into the United States illegally, including banning violators of the policy from entering the United States for 5 years after the infraction and barring them from seeking asylum.

Despite the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) extensive campaign to inform migrants of Title 8’s reality, reports show that many migrants mistakenly believe that the end of Title 42 means the altogether end of immigration restrictions at the U.S. border, causing thousands of migrants from across Latin America and the world to flood the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We are making it very clear that our border is not open, that crossing illegally is against the law and that those who are not eligible for asylum will be returned quickly,” said U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Subsequently, the United States deployed 24,000 CBP agents and 1,500 active-duty soldiers across the U.S.-Mexico border to try to curb illegal crossings. Mexico likewise stationed additional elements of the Mexican National Guard (GN) on its side of the border in preparation for Title 42’s expiration, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced during his daily morning press conference on Thursday, May 11.

“We agree to help with everything, cooperating with the United States government so that there is no chaos, and much less violence on the border,” said AMLO, noting that the GN had been instructed “not to use force” and “to avoid provocations.”

López Obrador went on to stress the positive dialogue between Mexico and the Biden administration on the changing border policy, characterizing Biden as “a well-intentioned person” and “our friend,” while confirming Biden’s commitment to “expand resources to further support the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of the tragic March fire at the Mexican National Immigration Institute’s (INM) Ciudad Juárez facility, which left 40 dead, the INM announced the suspension of 33 of its provisional stay facilities as the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) conducts investigations on the facilities’ conditions.

This in turn removes federal care opportunities for 1,306 migrants in Mexico, all while migrants from around the world continue to push through the country toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

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