MATAMOROS, Mexico (HPD) — Hundreds of migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border hours before pandemic-related asylum restrictions were set to expire Thursday, fearing the new policies would make it much more difficult for them to enter U.S. soil.
In a move to ease overwhelmed detention facilities, Border Patrol agents were ordered Wednesday to begin releasing some migrants with instructions that they report to an immigration office in the United States within 60 days. reported a US official. The official was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and provided the information to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The administration of President Joe Biden has been unveiling measures to replace Title 42, a program that has suspended the rights to seek asylum since March 2020 in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Title 42 expired on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security announced a rule to make it extremely difficult for anyone traveling through another country — such as Mexico — to qualify for asylum. It also introduced GPS-tracked curfews for families released into the United States before their initial screenings for possible asylum.
In the Mexican city of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, migrants were seen arriving steadily Wednesday, stripping naked before descending a steep bank with their clothes inside plastic bags. They were making their way slowly into the river, including a man with an open suitcase on his head in which he was carrying a baby.
Back on the American bank of the river, they would put on their dry clothes and make their way through razor-wire fences. Many have turned themselves in to authorities, hoping to be legally released on American soil while they pursue their cases before overwhelmed immigration courts, something that could take years.
One of the migrants who crossed, a Venezuelan who gave his name as William Contreras, said Title 42 was favorable to Venezuelans. He said he has heard that many fellow citizens before him were released in the United States.
Border Patrol apprehended some 10,000 migrants on Tuesday, one of the busiest days in its history, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. That number was nearly double the daily average of about 5,200 in March, the latest publicly available data, and close to the 11,000 that US officials have forecast as the upper limit of a surge they envision with the end of Title 42.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Rebecca Santana in Washington, DC; Christopher Sherman in Mexico City; Gerardo Carrillo in Matamoros, Mexico; María Verza in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; Anita Snow in Phoenix; Nick Riccardi in Denver; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Giovanna Dell’Orto in El Paso; and Elliot Spagat in Tijuana, Mexico, contributed to this report.