Live updates: Border appears calm after end of pandemic-era asylum restrictions

Published May 12, 2023 at 6:44 AM EDT
 Immigrants seeking asylum wait to board a bus to a U.S. Border Patrol processing center in Yuma, Ariz.
Mario Tama
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Getty Images
Immigrants seeking asylum wait to board a bus to a U.S. Border Patrol processing center in Yuma, Ariz.

This page is no longer being updated. For the latest on Title 42, head to NPR.org or the Texas Newsroom.

Si está buscando cobertura en español, diríjase aquípara obtener lo último sobre el Título 42, la política de inmigración de EE. UU. y la frontera de Texas, todo en español.

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Title 42 shut down nearly all routes to asylum in the U.S. Now that the policy expired, people who bypass legal pathways to enter the U.S. face tough consequences.

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Mexico: 26,000 migrants in border cities, could take 2 years for everyone to find homes

Posted May 13, 2023 at 2:40 PM EDT

Mexican officials reported more than 26,000 migrants were in cities south of the Texas-Mexico border on Thursday, just as Title 42 came to an end.

An official with IMN, Mexico's immigration agency, added that it could take two years to house all of them.

U.S. and Mexico officials said they anticipated a surge in migrants at the border ahead of the change in U.S. immigration policy, which makes it more difficult for migrants to request asylum in the U.S.

The chief of Border Patrol for the Rio Grande Valley said that out of around 1,900 migrant apprehensions on Thursday, almost 1,850 were processed for removal under the newly enacted policy.

The agency also reported that as of 5 p.m. Friday, apprehension numbers in Brownsville were lower than Thursday numbers.

What's happening with congressional policy?

Posted May 12, 2023 at 5:34 PM EDT
Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) talk before a hearing in October 2021.
Rod Lamkey-Pool
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Getty Images
Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) talk before a hearing in October 2021.

A bipartisan handful of senators are pushing for legislation that would give the Biden administration "temporary expulsion authority for migrants attempting to illegally enter the U.S. without inspection or proper documents" for two more years.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., introduced such a bill — which is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, — last week.

The senators say it would protect migrants whose return would "threaten their life, freedom, or expose them to torture," and allow for case-by-case exemptions for migrants with "acute medical needs."

Sinema and James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced similar legislation last spring, when the Biden administration was preparing to end Title 42 voluntarily.

NPR's Joel Rose explained that it didn't get very far at that time, "in part because a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the Biden administration from ending Title 42 then."

Sinema and Lankford introduced two more bills on Wednesday, just days before Title 42's expected expiration.

The legislation would increase border patrol staffing and pay rates and crack down on smugglers' use of drones along Arizona's border, respectively.

Member Station Reports

Looking for live coverage in Spanish? Si está buscando cobertura en español

Posted May 12, 2023 at 5:18 PM EDT

Si está buscando cobertura en español, diríjase aquípara obtener lo último sobre el Título 42, la política de inmigración de EE. UU. y la frontera de Texas, todo en español.

Mexican officials are boosting consulate services for migrants along the border

Posted May 12, 2023 at 5:07 PM EDT

Mexico’s government is working with the Biden administration to strengthen its consular assistance and protection to help stem a crush of migrants along the border.

The Foreign Ministry announced that from now through Saturday, Mexican officials are traveling to 11 Mexican stations on the border “to assist with any cases that arise as soon as they occur.”

In a statement, the office said:

“Foreign Ministry officials, together with the heads of the Mexican consulates in Texas (McAllen, Laredo, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, San Antonio, El Paso and Brownsville), California (San Diego) and Arizona (Nogales, Tucson and Yuma), will meet with immigration authorities in Mexico and the U.S. to safeguard the rights of all Mexicans and increase the warnings about the risks of crossing illegally, human trafficking, and the penalties for undocumented re-entry.”

Authorities in Mexico said they are also boosting resources available through the Center for Information and Assistance for Mexicans, a 24/7 call center that helps locate people after they’ve crossed the border, offers legal advice, and provides counseling for anyone who has suffered abuse.

The end of Title 42 could become a political risk for Biden

Posted May 12, 2023 at 4:26 PM EDT
President Joe Biden boards Marine One as he departs from the Wall St. Landing Zone en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on May 10.
Brendan Smialowsk/AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden boards Marine One as he departs from the Wall St. Landing Zone en route to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City on May 10.

President Biden campaigned on restoring competence and compassion to the immigration system.

That pledge is being tested as the end of Title 42 draws thousands of migrants to the U.S. border.

"As president of the United States, whether you like it or not, you have to deal with a crisis," said Leon Panetta, a chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton. "And this is a crisis."

For Biden, there's a risk that it also becomes a political crisis ahead of the 2024 election.

Looking to demonstrate a contrast, Republicans in the House voted this week on an immigration bill that would resurrect some of former President Donald Trump's old policies, including his border wall.

"Biden's inaction on closing the porous border has created an opportunity for Republicans in swing districts to go back to frustrated voters and say, ‘We have a solution,’" said Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Right now, voters are far more concerned about the economy than immigration, said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. But she said that could change if the situation at the border deteriorates.

"When people aren't paying very much attention … they will be unduly influenced by dramatic photos and dramatic statements,” Lake said.

From The Texas Newsroom in El Paso

El Paso's mayor says the city has seen a 'smooth transition' so far

Posted May 12, 2023 at 3:49 PM EDT

El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said on Friday that the city has seen a “smooth transition” so far after Title 42 expired Thursday night.

During a press call with reporters, he said only about 150 people, who are all part of family units, are in one of the city’s two temporary shelters that was opened in anticipation of a predicted wave of migrants. Single men and women that have been processed are staying in hotels.

Though Friday has been a relatively calm, Leeser said the city is still preparing for what happens next.

“We know that we still need to prepare for the unknown because we don’t know what’s going to happen next week and going to continue to happen day in and day out,” he said. “We actually have had a very smooth transition as Title 42 has lapsed and we’ve gone to Title 8.”

The mayor said that the people in shelters and hotels have been processed and have proper documentation. The city hasn’t needed to bus people out of the city so and is working with federal officials to ensure that migrants don’t need to be released onto the streets if shelter space is no longer available.

“The next coming days will tell how the releases happen, how they’re coming into the community, and what the population really is,” deputy chief Mario D’Agostino said.

CBP overhauled the glitch-plagued CBP One app, but migrants say it's still not working

Posted May 12, 2023 at 3:19 PM EDT
Luis Suárez, a 37-year old from Venezuela, has been trying to schedule an appointment on the CBP One app for the last six months. He said the updates haven't fixed the app's problems.
Joel Rose
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NPR
Luis Suárez, a 37-year old from Venezuela, has been trying to schedule an appointment on the CBP One app for the last six months. He said the updates haven't fixed the app's problems.

After months of complaints, immigration authorities recently rolled out a major overhaul for CBP One, the mobile app that is now the main authorized scheduling portal for migrants to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. But migrants in Ciudad Juárez say it's still not working.

“When you log in, the app kicks you out,” said Luis Suárez, holding up his phone. “The app opens up at 9 a.m., and at 9:01 you can’t register.”

He told NPR he's been trying to get an appointment on the app ever since he arrived in the northern Mexico city six months ago.

"It just sits on the logo, it sends you back to the beginning and when you try again, the appointments are gone, you have to wait until the next day,” he explained.

“It’s a waste of time ... even now that it's been updated," Suárez added, with frustration in his voice.

Immigration authorities have been trying to make improvements to the CBP One app. They’ve increased the number of appointments available from 750 to approximately 1,000 per day border-wide. Those appointments are now made available throughout the day, instead of at one specified time.

The CBP One scheduling system has also been changed to prioritize migrants who have been waiting the longest for an appointment.

“We believe that the changes have been working well,” said Blas Nuñez-Neto, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, during a press briefing on Friday.

“We fully appreciate that there is strong demand for the thousand slots that will be available every day. And so individuals may need to wait,” Nuñez-Neto said. “As with any kind of new rollout of a process or technology, we do expect that there may be some minor issues along the way, and we've been addressing those as they've been brought to our attention.”

From The Texas Newsroom

Heavy rain over the weekend will add to the challenges in South Texas

Posted May 12, 2023 at 3:08 PM EDT

Heavy rain looms over South Texas as migrants wait, often without shelter, in Mexico for their chance to enter the U.S. and those who have already crossed are being processed.

A flood watch will be in effect from Saturday to Sunday in South Texas. Between 5 to 8 inches of rain are expected in Laredo, and showers could leave behind 2 to 4 inches in Brownsville. A cold front is also adding to the wet weekend.

Officials have cautioned migrants against crossing the Rio Grande, which could swell with additional rain and become even more treacherous to cross.

Homeland Security Official says there was no 'substantial increase' in migrant arrivals overnight

Posted May 12, 2023 at 2:34 PM EDT
Migrants cross the Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge after obtaining an appointment to legally enter the United States at Matamoros, state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, Friday.
Alfredo Estrella
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AFP via Getty Images
Migrants cross the Matamoros-Brownsville International Bridge after obtaining an appointment to legally enter the United States at Matamoros, state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, Friday.

There wasn't a notable, immediate uptick in the number of migrants arriving at the southern border as Title 42 expired, said Blas Nuñez-Neto, the Homeland Security department’s assistant secretary overseeing immigration.

“Overnight, we saw similar patterns to what we’ve seen over the past several days. We continue to encounter high levels of non-citizens at the border but we did not see a substantial increase overnight or an influx at midnight,” he told reporters earlier today at a press briefing on the situation at the U.S. border.

The department was continuing to process people, Nuñez-Neto said, but the change in rules lent DHS "additional tools for us to deliver consequences," he added. DHS has 24,000 personnel stationed along the border, he said.

“There is a right way, a safe way and the wrong way, an unlawful way, to enter the United States," he said. "Those who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway are presumed ineligible for asylum."

ICE is eliminating COVID testing requirements and adding detention beds

Posted May 12, 2023 at 1:40 PM EDT
Migrants walk through gate 42 to board vans after waiting along the border wall to surrender to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agents for immigration and asylum claim processing upon crossing the Rio Grande river into the United Staes on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.
Patrick T. Fallon
/
AFP via Getty Images
Migrants walk through gate 42 to board vans after waiting along the border wall to surrender to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agents for immigration and asylum claim processing upon crossing the Rio Grande river into the United Staes on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new set of "post-pandemic emergency guidelines and protocols" on Thursday, changes it says align with the end of the U.S. COVID public health emergency and will enable it to process detained noncitizens for intake more quickly.

Corey Price, the executive associate director of ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), released a statement saying that ICE will implement best practices and follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to mitigate risks related to COVID and other communicable diseases.

“By aligning our protocols with current CDC guidance, we can more effectively manage our detention centers and care for those in our custody,” Price said. “ERO is committed to ensuring people in our custody are safe and receive appropriate medical care."

Under the new guidelines, ICE is no longer required to perform COVID tests on all detainees at intake, transfer or release, nor does it have to quarantine all detained noncitizens upon intake.

It will only be required to test asymptomatic detainees — at those parts of the process — if a facility is at an elevated COVID risk level, or if the country to which the detainee will be removed requires a negative COVID test. If an ICE facility is deemed to have a high level of risk, it will implement stronger protocols.

ICE says it will continue to offer COVID vaccinations to people it has detained.

It also says the changes will increase the number of accessible beds "by several thousand." Citing an administration official, CNN reports ICE will add 5,000 detention beds.

Mariangely crossed over early. 'I just want to give my children a better future,' she says.

Posted May 12, 2023 at 1:16 PM EDT

On Wednesday, around lunchtime, dozens of migrants lined up in the blazing sun outside of El Paso's Sacred Heart Church, just a few blocks from the Paso del Norte International Bridge.

“We got food!” yelled pastor David Brown, as he and other volunteers handed out plates of chicken, rice and green beans.

Mariangely Leal from Caracas, Venezuela, was one of the people waiting for a warm meal.

The 26-year-old told NPR that she first crossed the U.S. border in December. Upon entering, she said, she turned herself in to immigration officials, “only to be deported back to Mexico.”

Back in Juárez, she tried for months to schedule a processing appointment using CPB One — a mobile application that serves as a portal for Customs and Border Protection services — to no avail. Frustrated, Leal decided to try her luck again, making her way across the Texas border without an appointment last week.

"I wanted to cross before May 11," she explained, adding that she’d heard rumors that immigration authorities would start deporting all migrants after the end of Title 42.

But turning herself in wasn’t easy, despite an on-the-ground campaign by officials urging would-be asylum seekers to turn themselves in.

“I was scared,” Leal admitted. Family and friends convinced her to give it another go.

She said she needs to work to send money home to her three children, who stayed in Venezuela with her mother. Her oldest daughter, who's 11, graduated from middle school on Wednesday, she said, proudly showing pictures of the girl dressed in a blue graduation gown and cap, and flashing a smile.

It was worth the risk.

“I turned myself in yesterday at 11 a.m. and by 8 p.m. I had my documents and I was released,” she said.

Leal is headed to New Jersey where she’ll join family. “It’s a big relief,” she said. “I just want to give my children a better future.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, says border towns should be worried

Posted May 12, 2023 at 1:12 PM EDT
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, at the U.S. Capitol in November.
Tom Williams
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CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, at the U.S. Capitol in November.

As the White House prepared to lift Title 42 on Thursday, Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told NPR's A Martinez on Morning Edition that the administration had effectively “given the OK” to begin releasing migrants onto the streets of some border towns.

Cuellar said his biggest concern stemmed from the Border Patrol’s lack of capacity to house multitudes of asylum-seekers.

“Looking for a better life trying to get away from crime or any of those reasons are not reasons to stay, and I’m sorry, but that’s what the law says," he said.

“Somebody’s going to end up paying for this," he added. "So the NGOs or the border communities do not have space to hold them. Then the Border Patrol has only one option and put them out on the streets of Laredo, streets of McAllen, Brownsville, El Paso and other border communities.”

Cuellar isn't going so far as to support the Republican-led "Secure the Border Act" that's making its way through the House. He says it doesn't "respect the rights of legitimate asylum seekers." But he does want to see Congress pursue some reform incrementally.

"People are waiting for the perfect bill. It's not going to get there," he said. "And if we have to do some incremental steps, I'm now willing to take some incremental steps to address the issues that we need to address.”

🎧Hear the full interview with U.S. Rep. Henry Cueller, D-Texas, on NPR's Morning Edition.

From The Texas Newsroom in El Paso

A federal judge's ruling in Florida could lead to migrants dying in detention, says Texas congresswoman

Posted May 12, 2023 at 12:24 PM EDT

U.S. Rep Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said she feared the ruling by a federal district judge in Florida late Thursday would lead to migrants dying in detention like what happened under the Trump administration. The judge ruled that migrants could not be quickly released from custody without a court date.

“We saw severe overcrowding during the Trump administration and that severe overcrowding caused lost lives,” Escobar said during a press call with reporters. “Children died in custody during the Trump administration, they died of flu-like infections and not being treated … but it came from severe overcrowding.”

Escobar added that migrants were also released without court dates under Trump.

“This is not something new and we didn’t see red states suing the federal government during the Trump administration,” she said. “I really question the motives of some of the red states as to why they’re doing this now.”

In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said it would comply with the order but called the ruling “harmful” and said it would lead to “unsafe overcrowding.”

From The Texas Newsroom in El Paso and NPR

Officials in Texas say they aren't sure how migrants will be processed once they're in the U.S.

Posted May 12, 2023 at 12:17 PM EDT

Minutes before Title 42 expired at 9:59 p.m. Mountain Time in El Paso Thursday, one stretch of the border that had seen an uptick in unauthorized crossings over the last weeks was relatively quiet. At Gate 42, a section of the border fence in southeast El Paso, reporters and U.S. Border Patrol agents milled about in the desert sand while hundreds of people amassed across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez.

Customs and Border Protection officials said that about 350 to 400 migrants were still waiting to be processed and enter the United States as the clocked ticked down.

Univision reported early Friday that hundreds of migrants were still lined up in Ciudad Juarez in that area and being processed by U.S. Border Patrol officials, although it’s unclear if they will be subject to the restrictions under Title 8 or the new asylum restrictions the Biden administration said would go into effect after Title 42 expired.

During a conference call with reporters Friday morning, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said it was her assumption that migrants processed after the expiration of Title 42 would be processed under Title 8 policies. She said she would be in touch with Border Patrol leaders in Washington later in the day and confirm that was the case.

The return of Title 8 may be a welcome lifeline for thousands of migrants who have been stuck in overcrowded shelters or have been living on the streets of Mexican border cities, often prey to violence and exploitation.

But the longstanding protocols also carry stiffer penalties for migrants who are caught crossing the border illegally, including the possibility of a five-year ban on entry to the U.S. for migrants who are deported, as well as prosecution.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration finalized a new rule that severely limits asylum for those who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in a country they passed through. (The rule was first announced in February and is likely to face legal challenges.)

In the 40 hours leading up to Title 42's end, officials had taken about 1,500 migrants into custody in the El Paso area. Throughout May, the El Paso sector of the Border Patrol had about 1,150 encounters per day, a slight decrease from the April average of about 1,400.

TPR in Matamoros

Mexican officials: Metering, or letting a few dozen people cross legally per day, has returned in Matamoros

Posted May 12, 2023 at 12:06 PM EDT
Migrants crossing from Matamoros to Brownsville on an international bridge on May 12, 2023.
Carolina Cuellar
Migrants crossing from Matamoros to Brownsville on an international bridge on May 12, 2023.

At one of the busiest crossing spots along the U.S.-Mexico border, in South Texas, U.S. officials have begun allowing 50 people per day to cross legally and seek asylum. This change follows the lifting of Title 42 pandemic border restrictions.

An official with Mexico's immigration agency told TPR that an agreement was reached with the mayor of Matamoros, where more than 5,000 people are waiting to seek asylum, to let 50 people cross legally per day into Brownsville. The crossing slots are controlled by area shelters.

The Biden administration stopped the practice, known as metering, last year because it incentivizes more people to cross illegally between international bridges. U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to TPR's questions about whether the policy has returned or is being implemented elsewhere along the border.

TPR saw 40 adults and 10 children line up at the Gateway International Bridge on Friday while thousands of others weighed whether they should wait for their spot or cross illegally.

How many times has Title 42 been used before?

Updated May 12, 2023 at 11:59 AM EDT
Posted May 12, 2023 at 11:59 AM EDT
People wear face masks upon entry into the U.S. at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry in San Ysidro, California in  2021.
Frederic J. Brown
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AFP via Getty Images
People wear face masks upon entry into the U.S. at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry in San Ysidro, Calif., in November 2021.

We don't know for sure what will happen after Title 42 expires, in part because history doesn't offer many lessons — the policy itself has never been used at the border before.

Let's back up.

Title 42 is part of the Public Health Service Act of 1944, which authorized federal authorities to take certain measures aimed at preventing the spread of communicable diseases.

Congress had passed a similar law — allowing the president to exclude people from certain countries during a public health emergency — back in 1893, when cholera was running rampant in many parts of the world.

That law was only used once: to stop ships coming from China and the Philippines from entering U.S. ports during a meningitis outbreak in 1929. (That same year, then-President Herbert Hoover signed a proclamation that set U.S. immigration quotas for every country and completely excluded immigrants from Asia.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Trump administration enacted Title 42 in March 2020. Biden repeatedly extended the policy, which was the subject of multiple legal challenges including at the Supreme Court.

Biden spoke to Mexico's president earlier this week

Posted May 12, 2023 at 11:41 AM EDT
U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meet in Mexico City on January 9, 2023.
Jim Watson
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AFP via Getty Images
President Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador meet in Mexico City in January.

President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held a call just days before the lifting of Title 42 to discuss their continued coordination on migration and a host of other issues.

They talked about coordination between border authorities and strong enforcement measures, affirmed their commitment to addressing the root causes of migration from Central America and discussed the urgency of reducing crowding in northern Mexico, according to a White House readout of the Tuesday call.

"Both leaders underscored the value of managing migration in a humane and orderly fashion with expanded legal pathways and consequences for irregular migration," the White House said.

Biden and López Obrador said that after May 11 they will "continue to implement the successful joint initiative which, over four months, achieved a 95 percent drop in border encounters of individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela at the U.S.-Mexico border."

López Obrador tweeted that the hourlong conversation also touched on their shared commitment to working on issues like drug and arms trafficking and poverty on the continent.

"We are good neighbors and friends," he added.

From TPR in Matamoros

As Title 42 ended, some migrants in South Texas took their chances crossing the Rio Grande

Posted May 12, 2023 at 11:13 AM EDT
Migrants living in an encampment in Matamoros crossed the Rio Grande into Brownsville late Thursday and early Friday as Title 42 ended.
Stephania Corpi/TPR
Migrants living in an encampment in Matamoros crossed the Rio Grande into Brownsville late Thursday and early Friday as Title 42 ended.

In the early morning hours of Friday, dozens of migrants living in an encampment in Matamoros, which is Brownsville's border city in Mexico, decided to swim across the Rio Grande to enter the U.S.

Title 42 expired late Thursday, making asylum harder to claim for the thousands of people fleeing their homes in Central and South America, Asia and Eastern Europe.

Migrants weighed whether to cross the Rio Grande Thursday night as Title 42 ended.
Stephania Corpi/TPR
Migrants weighed whether to cross the Rio Grande Thursday night as Title 42 ended.

Raquel Garrido, 23, is from Venezuela. On Thursday night she stood on the banks of the Rio Grande in Matamoros, assessing whether to wade through the river with her 10-month-old baby.

She also considered her fate once she crossed. Troops from the Texas National Guard and Operation Lone Star erected a barbed wire fence on the U.S. side.

Operation Lone Star erected barbed wire along the Rio Grande in Brownsville Thursday, May 11, ahead of Title 42 ending.
Stephania Corpi/TPR
Operation Lone Star erected barbed wire along the Rio Grande in Brownsville Thursday, May 11, ahead of Title 42 ending.

"I don't know whether to go through that river," she told TPR's Stephania Corpi. "It's not so much the river, it's the barbed wire."

Garrido ultimately decided to stay in Mexico.

Mexican police patrolled the border in Matamoros.
Stephania Corpi/TPR
Mexican police patrolled the border in Matamoros.

Gov. Abbot's controversial $4 billion Operation Lone Star Program uses the Texas National Guard and state troopers to arrest migrants on state trespassing charges and to deter them from crossing.

Mexican immigration officials told TPR that two people almost drowned trying to cross into Brownsville Thursday night.

It's been over 12 hours since Title 42 ended. Here's a look at where things stand

Posted May 12, 2023 at 10:56 AM EDT
Migrants line up to walk to board vans after waiting along the border wall to surrender to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agents for immigration and asylum claim processing upon crossing the Rio Grande river into the United Staes on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
Patrick T. Fallon
/
AFP via Getty Images
Migrants line up to walk to board vans after waiting along the border wall to surrender to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Border Patrol agents for immigration and asylum claim processing upon crossing the Rio Grande river into the United Staes on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that severely limited immigration to the U.S., expired on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.

After days of anticipation and increased border crossings, there was a relative sense of calm in the minutes and hours after the reigning policy changed back to Title 8.

Many migrants weren't ready to move, with confusion about the new policy remaining high. NPR's Joel Rose spoke with a family in El Paso that was still waiting to cross the border, saying they felt "doubt and fear."

Others took their chances. In Matamoros, Mexico, Texas Public Radio reporter Stephania Corpi watched dozens of migrants swim across the Rio Grande to enter the U.S. near Brownsville, Texas.

It may take weeks to fully assess how things have changed. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the U.S. was prepared to swiftly dispel migrants without a legal basis to remain in the U.S. He said that 24,000 Border Patrol agents were waiting at the southwest border, ready to enforce laws.

But across the U.S., churches, shelters and non-border states like New York are preparing for a possible spike in migrants.

A family tried to surrender to U.S. border patrol. Now they're in a tent in Mexico

Posted May 12, 2023 at 10:56 AM EDT
A Texas National Guard soldier stands vigil at a makeshift migrant camp near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on May 11, 2023 in El Paso, Texas.
John Moore
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Getty Images North America
A Texas National Guard soldier stands vigil at a makeshift migrant camp near the U.S.-Mexico border fence on May 11, 2023 in El Paso, Texas.

After talking to migrants along the Juárez–El Paso border, NPR's Joel Rose says there's an understanding that Title 42 has lifted, but confusion about what that will mean for their futures.

Alejandra Gonzalez fled Venezuela with her husband and stepson. She told Rose that they tried to turn themselves in to border patrol in El Paso before the policy ended, waiting out in the hot sun for days without getting the chance.

Now, he tellsMorning Edition, they're back in Juárez — sleeping in a tent on the street and afraid to try crossing again.

"Because if we turned ourselves in we might be deported, or detained, or jailed," Gonzalez said in Spanish. "And I feel a lot of doubt and fear."

Member Station Reports
From WSKG and Gothamist in New York

NYC's mayor is busing dozens of migrants out of the city. Upstate officials are not pleased

Posted May 12, 2023 at 10:32 AM EDT
New York City Mayor Eric Adams attends on April 24, 2023 in New York.
Yuki Iwamura
/
AFP via Getty Images
New York City Mayor Eric Adams attends on April 24, 2023 in New York.

As Gothamist reported Thursday, "Several dozen migrants from New York City arrived at a hotel in Orange County by bus Thursday morning as part of Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to stem the overcrowding of emergency shelters by sending adult migrant men to suburban counties outside the five boroughs. Adams sent the bus despite the vociferous objections of officials in Orange and Rockland counties."

Two more counties in New York state, Broome and Schulyer, joined officials in Orange and Rockland county, "in declaring a state of emergency and corresponding executive order meant to bar hotels, motels and short-term rental establishments from contracting with New York City to house asylum seekers."

As member station WSKG reports, Broome County Executive Jason Garnar expressed concern over the region's ability to "find housing for residents in our own community," as well as the limited availability in the region's existing emergency shelters.

Broome, Orange, Rockland and Schuyler counties are all north of New York City.

Member Station Reports
From The Texas Newsroom

Texas shelters and churches prepare for a possible spike in migrants needing help

Posted May 12, 2023 at 10:04 AM EDT
download.webp
Yfat Yossifor/KERA
On May 3, Cassie Stewart with Rio Valley Relief Project helps Diomar Guerrero Alvarez find clothes at Oak Lawn Methodist Church in Dallas before continuing to his U.S. destination.

A Dallas church was prepared to receive five times more migrants after Title 42 expired late Thursday.

Since 2019, Oak Lawn United Methodist Church has been a safe place for asylum seekers passing through North Texas, welcoming people from Venezuela, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and China, reports KERA News.

Lawyers and church and immigrant rights' groups in Houston have been fielding requests for help from migrants.

"We are preparing with legal services, we're preparing with anything we can do to help migrants coming into the Houston area," said Cesar Espinoza with the immigrant rights' organization FIEL Houston told Houston Matters. "Unfortunately this is going to be very chaotic for the meantime."

Since opening a temporary shelter near a Houston airport in October, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has seen about 3,000 migrants, according to Catholic Charities representative Karina Hernandez. She said about 15% of people it's served have chosen to remain in Houston, while others take flights to New York Cities and Chicago. FEMA is funding the shelter.

Blake Barrow is chief executive director of Rescue Mission in El Paso, a nonprofit that works with people experiencing homelessness. Since September that population has included migrants from countries like Venezuela.

"They’re homeless, too," Barrow told Texas Standard. "They’re just from a different country, so we’re just here to love on all of God’s people. So it’s basically a whole lot more customers and more opportunities to help people out."

What does the end of Title 42 mean for President Biden, politically?

Posted May 12, 2023 at 9:47 AM EDT
US President Joe Biden arrives to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, May 11, 2023.
Al Drago
/
Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Joe Biden arrives to speak in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Thursday, May 11, 2023.

NPR Washington Correspondent Mara Liasson said on the NPR Politics Podcastthat the White House thinks the issue of immigration doesn't really matter to their voters — it's mostly a Republican issue.

"That might be true," Liasson says, but the Republicans are definitely leaning into the issue, pushing a message of chaos.

And, Liasson says, "The picture of chaos anywhere, whether it's a withdrawal from Afghanistan or people at the U.S. border ... that hurts the incumbent."

"Joe Biden ran as being a competent manager who could solve problems and would be the opposite of the Trump years," she said. "But a chaotic border just undermines that argument."

Adding to the challenge of the issue: Immigration has been touted as one of the solutions to a U.S. labor shortage that's kept millions of jobs sitting empty.

"Comprehensive immigration reform, which includes border security, a permanent solution for all those DACA kids, some kind of a regulated legal immigration program — that's just something Congress has tried and failed at again and again," Liasson said.

🎧Listen to the NPR Politics Podcast's full episode on Title 42.

How Arizona plans to respond to the end of Title 42

Posted May 12, 2023 at 9:29 AM EDT
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks about her state's Title 42 response at a news conference on Monday.
Terry Tang
/
AP
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs speaks about her state's Title 42 response at a news conference on Monday.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, frustrated by a lack of federal resources for communities impacted by the end of Title 42, has outlined a five-point preparedness approach for the expected influx of migrants to her state.

She announced it during a visit to Tucson earlier this week, as Arizona Public Media's Paola Rodriguez reported.

"It doesn't appear that the federal government is prepared,” said Hobbs, a Democrat. “As a result, Arizona communities will face incredible challenges trying to deal with the influx of people entering the country.”

Her plan aims to address those challenges locally and statewide through five main avenues, per AZPM:

  • Public Safety: The Department of Public Safety will work in assisting local sheriffs and law enforcement on Arizona highways to prevent drugs, like fentanyl, from entering.
  • Partnerships: A new initiative called the Joint Information Command will bring non-government organizations, federal agencies, local governments, and tribal communities to discuss approaches and responses.
  • Transportation: The Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) will assist in the transportation of migrants.
  • Emergency Shelter: DEMA will work in helping connect migrants with shelter.
  • Executive Action: Hobbs plans to utilize state resources on an as-needed basis for emergencies.

Read AZPM's full story here.

Also in Arizona: The mayor of Yuma, a city that shares a border with Mexico, wrote a letter to President Biden on Thursday asking him to declare a national state of emergency due to the end of Title 42.

“That would entail the deployment of FEMA personnel to establish transportation facilities for released migrants and aid from the National Guard to support the full mission of the Border Patrol to transport migrants to nonprofits in communities with more robust transportation and nonprofit options as allowed under Title 32," wrote Douglas Nicholls.

City officials said on Wednesday that the Yuma region sees over 1,000 migrants crossing the border each day and expects that its border patrol will now "become even busier and may eventually reach ultimate capacity."

Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas: 'We are prepared for this transition'

Posted May 12, 2023 at 9:10 AM EDT

As the clock struck midnight and Title 42 immigration rules ended, the secretary of Homeland Security released a video message saying the U.S. is "prepared for this transition and will enforce our laws."

People who do not use available legal pathways to enter the U.S. now face tougher consequences, including a minimum five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal prosecution, Alejandro Mayorkas said.

"We are ready to process and swiftly remove people without a legal basis to remain in the U.S.," he added.

Mayorkas tweeted that the U.S. has 24,000 Border Patrol agents and officers at the Southwest border, has surged thousands of troops and contractors and over a thousand asylum officers to help enforce our laws.

"Do not believe the lies of smugglers," he added. "The border is not open."

How Title 42 went from an obscure health policy to the 'primary tool' for managing migrants

Posted May 12, 2023 at 8:42 AM EDT

Title 42 comes from a federal law that dates back to 1944 meant to help prevent the spread of communicable diseases. It's what essentially gave authority to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionto take emergency action in March 2020, allowing immigration authorities to quickly expel migrants and deny entry to asylum seekers.

The 1944 Public Health Service Act established an administrative structure for the country to deal with national and international health problems that could arise both in wartime and in peace. It is now part of Title 42 of the U.S. Code, a broad set of federal laws which include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs.

Back in the 1940s, tuberculosis was a major public health threat to the nation, and the Public Health Service Act helped provide grants for research and treatment of the disease. It also did things like establish the National Cancer Institute under the National Institutes of Health.

Overall, it's pretty obscure — and definitely not a measure imagined to operate as central to the debate over immigration and asylum law.

Since it was invoked under Trump, Customs and Border Protection has counted more than 1.7 million expulsions of migrants at the border.

Theresa Cardinal Brown from the Bipartisan Policy Center calls Title 42 the "primary tool" for managing migration at the border under both the Trump and Biden administrations.

About half of those "that were encountered at the border in the last year were expelled under Title 42," she told NPR in March.

➡️ Read more on the background of Title 42.

What is Title 8? The decades-old immigration protocol is back in place

Posted May 12, 2023 at 7:56 AM EDT
Migrants wait for asylum hearings at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro, Calif.
Sandy Huffaker
/
AFP via Getty Images
Migrants wait for asylum hearings at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro, Calif.

Now that Title 42 has expired, tens of thousands of people who've been waiting in Mexico are subject to Title 8.

The decades-old immigration protocol says that individuals can no longer be turned away or deported without a screening for asylum claims.

That means they'll enter the country and be placed in detention centers as they go through a process called expedited removal, which includes a credible fear interview.

Those who are deemed to have valid claims will be allowed to stay in the country as their cases make their way through immigration court. Those who are not will be deported.

For migrants caught crossing the border illegally, the longstanding protocols carry stiffer penalties, including the possibility of a five-year ban on entry to the U.S., as well as prosecution.

These are the measures the Biden administration is taking

Updated May 12, 2023 at 11:35 AM EDT
Posted May 12, 2023 at 7:41 AM EDT
A migrant family walks out of a processing center after arriving from Mexico on Wednesday in Brownsville, Texas.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds
/
AFP via Getty Images
A migrant family walks out of a processing center after arriving from Mexico on Wednesday in Brownsville, Texas.

The Department of Homeland Security has stepped up efforts to assuage fears that mayhem may break out at the country's ports of entry as Title 42 sunsets.

Here's a look at some of the actions they've taken:

1. Finalizing a new policy

On Wednesday, the Biden administration finalized a new rule that severely limits asylum for those who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in a country they passed through.

Mayorkas said the new rule is part of a broader effort by the administration to discourage migrants from crossing the border illegally and create a host of new legal pathways.

The ACLU and other groups filed suit overnight to reopen an existing case against this rule, arguing that it's legal to seek asylum in the U.S. no matter how you arrived.

2. Announcing plans to open new processing centers

Senior administration officials said Tuesday that the State Department is working on plans to eventually open about 100 regional processing centers around the Western Hemisphere where migrants could apply for resettlement to the U.S., Canada or Spain.

3. Making it easier to get a CBP appointment

In the meantime, the CBP One mobile app, which migrants with limited internet access have widely complained about, transitioned to a new appointment scheduling platform.

Officials said they are "significantly increasing" the number of appointments from a low of about 300 per day to 1,000. They are prioritizing people who have been waiting the longest for appointments.

4. Clarifying the number of admitted migrants

Additionally, the U.S. will continue to admit 30,000 migrants a month from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, as long as they have applied online and have secured a financial sponsor. Mexico has agreed to continue taking back the same number who cross illegally.

5. Tracking families that are released in the U.S.

The administration also announced on Wednesday a new program called Family Expedited Removal Management, which will help track migrant families who are seeking asylum and are released in the United States. The measure would allow immigration officials to track the head of the household via a monitoring device and require a curfew in certain cities.

6. Lending law enforcement back-up

In recent days, 1,500 active-duty military troops have been deployed to the border as a backup for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. They are joining roughly 24,000 law enforcement officers and 2,500 National Guard troops are already there.

Member Station Reports
TPR in McAllen

A Venezuelan man reflects on Brownsville migrant deaths

Posted May 12, 2023 at 7:37 AM EDT
Antonio Carrera left Venezuela for the U.S.
Gaige Davila
Antonio Carrera left Venezuela for the U.S.

Antonio Carrera was one of several Venezuelan men waiting for assistance at the McAllen bus depot Thursday, across the street from the Catholic Charities RGV Humanitarian Respite Center.

Carrera and other migrants crossed into the U.S. just before Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that allowed the U.S. to quickly expel people, ended Thursday night.

He criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of immigrants, mentioning the crash in Brownsville that killed 8 and injured 10 — most of whom were Venezuelan men — on Sunday.

“On one side, I’m sad because four days ago they killed some people. I say it like that because they were killed: they were killed by someone who, practically, that, well, I don’t know what they had in their mind, if it was the devil or him thinking he’s superior to others,” he told TPR in Spanish.

“I think we’re all the same," he continued. "I think the whole world shouldn’t have borders. Rather, people should be able to go here and there if they want. But every country put up a border and then they like to denigrate you. They denigrate immigrants, and not all immigrants are the same.”

DHS official defends new asylum rules and says only Congress can enact reform

Posted May 12, 2023 at 7:33 AM EDT
Blas Nuñez-Neto, then-acting assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the DHS, testifies during a May 2022 Senate hearing.
Kevin Dietsch
/
Getty Images
Blas Nuñez-Neto, then-acting assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the DHS, testifies during a May 2022 Senate hearing.

Immigration policy looks very different this morning from how it looked yesterday.

People who enter the U.S. illegally could be banned from returning for at least five years, and repeat offenders could face prosecution. And many migrants seeking asylum at the southern border will need to show they were turned down by a country they crossed into first before asking the U.S.

Those asylum restrictions, announced on Wednesday, have proved controversial. Immigration advocacy groups including the ACLU filed a lawsuit to stop them just moments after they took effect, comparing them to Trump administration efforts that courts have blocked in the past.

Blas Nuñez-Neto, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security, says it's nothing like what the Trump administration did.

"What we have done is really oversee a historic increase in lawful pathways to the U.S. including at our ports of entry ... we are allowing migrants to claim asylum but placing what we believe are some common sense conditions on it," he says. "And we're also significantly expanding family reunification programs."

Nuñez-Neto tellsMorning Edition's A Martinez that the administration believes it is well within its statutory authorities to enact such a rule, on top of the existing Title 8 asylum protocol.

"What we are really trying to do here is incentivize migrants to use safe, lawful and orderly pathways," he says. "But also there has to be a consequence at the border for individuals who continue to cross irregularly despite having these options available to them."

He says that's particularly important because many people are "putting their lives in the hands of drug cartels and criminal organizations that are fundamentally exploiting migrants to bring them here."

Ultimately, he says, it's up to Congress to enact immigration reform. He says the Biden administration has been reaching out to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, asking them to "come together in a bipartisan way to solve this problem."

"The bottom line is we are seeing these surges of migration now for going on 20 years under presidents of both political parties," he adds. "Different administrations have tried to deal with this challenge through executive action in different ways, we are obviously doing that ourselves, and that has invited the courts to step in in ways that are frankly deeply unhelpful. And so at the end of the day, we are clear-eyed that there is no lasting solution here that does not involve the U.S. Congress stepping up."

What it was like at the Texas-Mexico border the moment Title 42 expired

Posted May 12, 2023 at 7:28 AM EDT
Migrants wait along the border wall between Ciudad Juarez (R) and El Paso, Texas to turn themselves in to border control agents on Thursday night.
Patrick T. Fallon
/
AFP via Getty Images
Migrants wait along the border wall between Ciudad Juarez, at right, and El Paso, Texas, to turn themselves in to border control agents on Thursday night.

NPR's Joel Rose was at the border in El Paso, Texas, at midnight, the very moment that Title 42 lifted.

He tells Morning Edition that he saw a few hundred migrants lining up on the banks of the Rio Grande, in front of the gate in the border wall, trying to turn themselves in to border patrol.

Similar scenes played out in Arizona. In south Texas, migrants waded through the river to try to reach U.S. soil.

"Overall, though, there was no sudden rush at the border at the moment Title 42 lifted, like some had been anticipating," Rose says.

"However, we know that there are still tens of thousands of migrants who are in northern Mexico hoping for a chance to seek asylum, and we really don't know what they're going to do next."

150,000? 65,000? How many people are actually trying to cross the border?

Posted May 12, 2023 at 6:58 AM EDT
Ecuadoran immigrant Janina, 4, stands by her father and other immigrants awaiting processing by Border Patrol agents after crossing into Arizona from Mexico on Wednesday.
Mario Tama
/
Getty Images
Ecuadoran immigrant Janina, 4, stands by her father and other immigrants awaiting processing by Border Patrol agents after crossing into Arizona from Mexico on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday morning, nearly 28,000 migrants were in custody — far above official capacity.

"It's a lot worse than we thought it was going to be," Brandon Judd, the head of the Border Patrol union who is also a vocal critic of the Biden administration, told NPR on Wednesday.

Judd added: "In my worst nightmares, I would've never thought any administration would allow the border crisis to spiral out of control the way it has."

But Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said officials are moving swiftly and that by midday Wednesday, individuals in custody were down by several thousand, to 26,345. "So I feel like we're already making progress," he said.

Estimates of approximately 150,000 migrants waiting along the border, as reported by some news outlets, are drastically overblown, according to Ortiz.

"I'm tracking between 60,000 and 65,000," he said.

Ortiz added that the record numbers of apprehensions — upwards of 17,000 per day — are not likely to materialize after Thursday night. He explained that only five of the nine southwest Border Patrol sectors are over 125% capacity, meaning the other four are not.

Title 42 has expired. What happens next?

Posted May 12, 2023 at 6:47 AM EDT
Migrants wait for asylum hearings at the Mexican border Thursday evening as seen from San Ysidro, Calif.
Sandy Huffaker
/
AFP via Getty Images
Migrants wait for asylum hearings at the Mexican border Thursday evening as seen from San Ysidro, Calif.

Title 42 expired last night at 11:59 p.m. ET. This morning, security officials are bracing for what could be an unprecedented influx of migrants seeking asylum along the southern border.

The COVID-era public health emergency measure allowed for the quick expulsion of migrants at the border and nearly halted the processing of asylum applications for more than three years.

Starting today, the tens of thousands of people who have been waiting in Mexico after fleeing from violence, poverty and political instability will be subject to decades-old immigration protocols, which state they can no longer be turned away or deported without being screened for asylum claims.

The longer processing times are likely to result in a bottleneck at ports of entry and detention centers that will put a strain on federal, state and local government resources.

As the day unfolds, NPR and member station reporters will be bringing you updates from the U.S.-Mexico border, across the country and inside the halls of power. Thanks for joining us.

Immigrant advocates are suing the Biden administration over asylum restrictions

Posted May 12, 2023 at 6:25 AM EDT
Immigrants seeking asylum are processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing into Yuma, Ariz., from Mexico on Thursday.
Mario Tama
/
Getty Images
Immigrants seeking asylum are processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing into Yuma, Arizona from Mexico on Thursday.

Just as Title 42 officially expired, the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups filed to reopen an existing case before a judge in California.

They're challenging a new Biden administration rule that makes it much harder for migrants to get asylum if they cross the border illegally after passing through Mexico or another country without seeking protection there first, NPR's Joel Rose told Morning Edition.

The rule was released on Wednesday.

"We are suing to stop Biden’s new asylum ban, which closes off access to safety for the majority of people seeking asylum in the United States," the ACLU tweeted just after midnight on Friday.

Advocates say this is nearly identical to previous attempts to restrict access to asylum under the Trump administration, which were blocked in court, and that it's legal to seek asylum in the U.S. no matter how you arrived.

The Biden administration disputes that this rule is the same as former President Trump's because it has some exemptions and is paired with new legal pathways.

"I would expect the administration to defend this rule vigorously in court because it is a key component of how they plan to manage the border going forward," Rose says.

In a separate legal development, a federal judge in Florida has blocked the Biden administration from releasing migrants from custody without a court date.

Normally immigration authorities give migrants a date to appear in immigration court before releasing them, Rose explains. But the Biden administration has sometimes released migrants under "parole" — with instructions to check in with immigration authorities later — in an effort to restrict overcrowding at border control facilities.

"Immigration authorities had been preparing to do that again, if necessary, but a judge in Florida issued a temporary restraining order putting that idea on hold for at least two weeks," he adds.