The United States has lifted pandemic-era immigration restrictions, known as Title 42, at its border with Mexico. The transition to new regulations introduced by President Joe Biden’s administration aims to discourage illegal crossings, provide legal pathways for entry, and combat smugglers involved in human trafficking. Under the new rules, migrants must first apply online or seek protection in the countries they traveled through before seeking asylum in the U.S. Families allowed entry will face curfews and GPS monitoring, while those expelled may be barred from re-entering the country for five years and face potential criminal prosecution.
In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, migrants eagerly watched their cellphones, hoping to secure appointments to seek entry to the United States. Many have resigned themselves to waiting for authorized appointments rather than attempting to cross the border illegally. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported no substantial increase in immigration despite the lifting of Title 42.
The Biden administration has outlined new legal pathways for entry, including a program that permits up to 30,000 people per month from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to enter the U.S. by applying online with a financial sponsor and entering through an airport. Processing centers are being established in Guatemala, Colombia, and other locations for migrants to apply for entry to the U.S., Spain, or Canada. Additionally, up to 1,000 migrants per day can enter through land crossings with Mexico if they secure an appointment via the designated app.
While these new measures could fundamentally change how migrants approach the southern border, President Biden faces criticism from both migrant advocates, who believe he is abandoning more humanitarian approaches, and Republicans, who accuse him of being lenient on border security. Legal challenges have already emerged regarding the new asylum restrictions.
Title 42, initiated in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, enabled the swift return of asylum seekers to prevent the spread of the virus. However, with the national emergency officially over, the restrictions have been lifted. Unlike Title 42, the new regulations carry legal consequences for expulsion.
In El Paso, Texas, fewer migrants remained outside Sacred Heart Catholic Church and shelter after many responded to flyers distributed by U.S. immigration authorities, which offered a “last chance” for processing. However, border holding facilities in the U.S. were already overcrowded prior to the expiration of Title 42.
A federal judge in Florida temporarily halted the Biden administration’s plans to release people into the U.S., citing concerns about overcrowding at processing and detention facilities. Migrant rights groups have also sued the administration, arguing that the new policy is similar to one adopted by former President Donald Trump and rejected by the same court. The Biden administration maintains that its policy is different, imposing a higher burden of proof for asylum while also providing alternative legal pathways.
At the Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, a few migrants approached U.S. authorities after being unable to access the appointment app. One Salvadoran migrant expressed fear, stating that he and
his family could not stay in Mexico or return to Guatemala or El Salvador. They hoped the U.S. could either accommodate them or guide them to another country.
The lifting of Title 42 marks a significant shift in immigration policies at the Mexico border. Title 42, initiated in March 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed for the rapid expulsion of asylum seekers to prevent the spread of the virus. However, with the national emergency now officially over, the restrictions have been removed. While Title 42 prevented many from seeking asylum, it did not carry the same legal consequences for expulsion as the new rules.
In El Paso, Texas, the number of migrants outside Sacred Heart Catholic Church and shelter has decreased, as many heeded the flyers distributed by U.S. immigration authorities, offering a last opportunity for processing. However, the border holding facilities in the U.S. were already overcrowded even before the expiration of Title 42.
A federal judge in Florida has temporarily halted the Biden administration’s plans to release people into the U.S., citing concerns about overcrowding and safety at migrant processing and detention facilities. Customs and Border Protection expressed compliance with the ruling but referred to it as a “harmful ruling” that could result in unsafe conditions.
Legal challenges have emerged regarding the new asylum restrictions implemented by the Biden administration. Migrant rights groups have filed lawsuits, claiming that the policy resembles the one adopted by former President Donald Trump, which was previously rejected by the same court. The Biden administration maintains that its policy is distinct, imposing a higher burden of proof for asylum while also creating alternative legal pathways.
At the Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, a few migrants approached U.S. authorities after experiencing difficulties accessing the appointment app. One migrant from El Salvador, named Jairo, shared his fear and explained that he and his family were fleeing death threats in their home country. He expressed the urgency of their situation and their inability to remain in Mexico or return to Guatemala or El Salvador. Jairo hoped that if the U.S. could not accommodate them, they would be directed to another country where they could find safety.
As the Biden administration implements these new immigration regulations and legal pathways, the future of immigration at the Mexico border remains uncertain. The balance between addressing humanitarian concerns and maintaining border security continues to be a topic of debate and contention. The effectiveness and impact of the new policies, along with the resolution of ongoing legal challenges, will shape the dynamics of migration in the region in the coming months.