These at-risk migrants can’t wait until Title 42 ends in May

On Thursday morning, atop the windy Paso del Norte Bridge that connects Ciudad Juárez and downtown El Paso, Texas, 30-year-old Magdalena tries to calm her nerves. This is the closest she and her 10-year-old son will be allowed to enter the United States and she is terrified of being turned away again, to the refuges in Mexico where she and her son, who suffers from heart disease and needs medical attention, live for six months.

“It’s very emotional for me,” she told TIME in Spanish. “We suffered a lot coming here.

Magdalena and her son emigrated from Guatemala in September last year after being threatened with gang violence in their home country. Since then, they have attempted to enter the United States twice. Both times they were deported to Juárez by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials who cited US Order 42, a controversial public health measure the government has used since March 2020. to carry out almost 2 million evictions. Title 42 allows CBP officials to deport migrants immediately, bypassing the normal pitfalls of the immigration process, including asylum interviews.

It’s been nearly a week since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Title 42 deportations will end on May 23. But Magdalena and her son, who are joined on the bridge by 15 other migrants, and four unaccompanied minor children, can’t wait that long, says Crystal Sandoval, senior legal assistant at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, a nonprofit organization. El Paso nonprofit that provides legal representation to immigrants. “These people can’t wait weeks to see what our politicians do,” she told TIME. “Their lives are at stake, these are truly life and death situations.”

The administration’s decision last week to end Title 42 in May set off a cascading series of events – political expediency, new legislation and lawsuits – and experts say its removal could help spark a new wave of migration to the US-Mexico border this spring. But for people already at the border, who have filled Mexican shelters to capacity, May 23 can’t come soon enough. Nearly 10,000 cases of violence against migrants deported under Title 42 have been documented since the start of the Biden administration alone, according to Human Rights First. The migrants in this story are identified by their first names only for the sake of their protection.

For about seven months, Sandoval and others in Las Americas helped vulnerable migrants circumvent Title 42, usually by appealing to the discretion given to CPB officials to exempt particularly vulnerable migrants. Those gathered at the bridge on Thursday suffered gender-based violence, discrimination because of their nationality and language, or have urgent medical needs that cannot be met in Juárez, Sandoval said. At least three times a week, Sandoval travels to the Paso del Norte Bridge with a group of migrants, including those gathered this Thursday, who have been pre-approved for a Title 42 exemption. Today, Sandoval is joined by a legal and administrative assistant from the Mexican office of Las Americas, and representatives from Kids in Need of Defense and the International Refugee Assistance Project who help unaccompanied minors.

At the Paso del Norte bridge, Sandoval speaks in Spanish to the group, offering advice as they wait for clearance to enter the United States. Two CBP officers look on. “Answer their questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” she says. “And if you don’t understand something, you can tell them you don’t understand.”

Then Sandoval sees Magdalena, small and standing at the back of the crowd, her back to the chain-link fence of the bridge. “You look so nervous,” Sandoval tells Magdalena, who smiles shyly then looks away, turning to her son for a hug. “Well, I am,” she said quietly. Don, a 26-year-old Haitian migrant, who is also applying for a Title 42 exemption with his wife and almost 2-year-old daughter, steps in. “We’re all nervous,” he said, smiling at Magdalena. Then he points to his daughter, who is playing with her parents’ suitcases. “Look at her, she’s not nervous,” Mitton said, easing the tension. “As long as she has milk, it’s fine.” The crowd laughs.

Migrants seeking asylum walk near the border wall after crossing the Rio Bravo River, in El Paso, Texas, U.S., seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, April 6, 2022.

Jose Luis Gonzalez—Reuters

Thousands of miles from this little group of migrants waiting to cross into the United States, conservative Democrats and Republicans in Washington are working to reverse the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42. On Wednesday, Republicans introduced a bill to to codify the measure into law through February 2025. A group of Republicans and centrist Democratic senators introduced another bill on Thursday that would ask the Biden administration to keep Title 42 evictions in place until that she creates a plan to prevent a wave of migration.

“I will continue to push for transparency and accountability in the administration to help secure the border, keep Arizona communities safe, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” the senator said. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, one of the authors of the bill, in an audience. statement.

Read more: Biden faces Republican outrage over immigration after announcing end of Title 42

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last week that it was preparing for an influx of migrants following the end of Title 42. The Department is preparing for up to 18,000 encounters per day. By comparison, there were 164,973 encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border during the entire month of February, according to the most recent data from CBP. It is also sending more official personnel to the US-Mexico border to help with treatment and is stepping up COVID-19 mitigation measures and vaccinations. In March, the administration announced that it would make minor changes to the processing of asylum applications with the aim of speeding up decisions on asylum applications by granting asylum officers the power to make decisions on some claims instead of the asylum claim going through the immigration court system backlogged.

But the future of Title 42 also depends on the political winds in the United States. As November’s midterm elections approach, US-Mexico border politics will likely become a political bludgeon, the subject of scathing attack announcements and social media posts – a fate that is sure to obscure. the impact of the measure on people like Magdalena, huddled on the bridge.

Sandoval and the rest of the Las Americas organizers say they must consider the uncertain future of policies like Title 42. While the Biden administration has announced its end, it could very easily be revived, either through an order of the court or by another administration. After all, the Biden administration ended another Trump-era measure, the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs), or “stay in Mexico,” last year, but not for long. Texas and Missouri sued the administration, arguing that it failed to follow proper procedure to end the MPP, and a court agreed. Now the MPP is back in place.

On Monday, Republican attorneys general in Arizona, Missouri and Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42 on very similar grounds.

Read more: How the Biden administration contradicts itself on key immigration policies

“Fundamentally, every immigration policy that a president puts in place from now on, I think he should just expect to be continued,” says Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy. at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank. “Because Congress has been unable to pass significant immigration legislation…the courts are telling the country what our immigration policy is. And it’s chaotic.

Back on the Paso del Norte bridge, a CBP agent begins calling out names. One by one, he asks each of the gathered migrants to enter the United States. Magdalena is called first. She walks briskly, almost at a run, grabbing her and her son’s only belongings, a backpack and a blue gym bag.

When the CBP agent calls the names of a Haitian family, the parents rush to pick up their bags while Sandoval helps and carries their three-year-old son. The boy smiles in wonder at all the people and movement around him, and other pedestrians queuing are drawn to his joy. They wave to him as the migrants walk the rest of the length of the bridge to the CBP processing center.

At the head of the line, Magdalena shakes her son’s hand as she waits for CBP officials to review his paperwork. “I’m still nervous,” she says, one hand clutching her chest, but this time her face tells a different story. She smiles. After living in migrant shelters for six months, she can now hope to be reunited with her husband, who emigrated to the United States two years ago. She’s officially on American soil, and this time around, at least for the foreseeable future, she’ll be able to stay.

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Write to Jasmine Aguilera at [email protected]

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