US President Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to end a controversial public health order that allows authorities to turn away most asylum seekers at the US border with Mexico.
Biden called his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday – just two days before the end of the Title 42 policy – and the leaders pledged to strengthen cooperation on the border.
“They discussed continued close coordination between border authorities and strong enforcement measures,” the White House said in a readout of the talks.
“The two leaders emphasized the value of managing migration in a humane and orderly manner with expanded legal channels and consequences for irregular migration,” it said.
First imposed by former US President Donald Trump at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Title 42 effectively allows US border authorities to rapidly turn away the majority of asylum seekers arriving. at the border, without giving them a chance to apply for protection.
The policy has drawn widespread condemnation from rights advocates who argue it forces migrants and refugees back to unsafe Mexican border towns and violates US obligations under international law.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre maintained that the Biden administration is prepared to manage the expected flow of border arrivals when the rule expires on Thursday.
“Now we believe we have a strong plan, a multi-agency plan, to do this in a humane way,” said Jean-Pierre, stressing that Washington is pursuing a policy of “enforcement, prevention and diplomacy”.
The White House announced last week that it was sending an additional 1,500 US troops to the border in anticipation of the end of Title 42.
Border states, cities prepare
US states and municipalities along the Mexican border are also preparing.
The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, said on Monday that he plans to deploy the new “Texas Tactical Border Force” in the state, under the supervision of the Texas national guard.
And on Tuesday, US Customs and Border Protection agents launched a “targeted enforcement operation” in the Texas city of El Paso, a key point along the border that has seen an increase in irregular crossings. in the present days.
The Department of Homeland Security also said it will reduce the flow of legal travelers through the Paso Del Norte port of entry to focus on security.
El Paso, as well as two other Texas cities, Brownsville and Laredo, have declared a state of emergency as they struggle to cope with hundreds of people – mostly from Latin America and some from China, Russia and Turkey – already there.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said the city is ready for more on Friday, judging by a recent tour of the neighboring Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez. “On the road, we estimate between eight and 10,000 people,” said Leeser.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs said the state would take people who cross the border irregularly to other parts of the US to help with additional arrivals.
Already, humanitarian groups say the number of people gathering near the border has increased sharply in recent days in anticipation of the end of Title 42.
In Matamoros, Mexico, migrants and refugees bought pool floats and life jackets to prepare to cross the Rio Grande River to Brownsville, Texas, migrant rights activist Gladys Canas told the Reuters news agency. news.
In Tijuana, across from San Diego, California, asylum seekers formed a long line in front of a high border fence on Monday with the intention of turning themselves in to US border agents.
Confusion and frustration
Those hoping to gain asylum expressed frustration with the CBP One app, which they were expected to use to schedule appointments to enter the US.
Amnesty International said the requirement “severely limits the ability of asylum seekers to seek international protection”.
Speaking to the AFP news agency from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a Venezuelan mother of two young children, Marjorie, said she had abandoned the app. Instead, he tried to surrender to US border authorities.
“They just come and tell us they will accept us but they won’t come back,” he told AFP. “They told us to stay calm, wait here, but they didn’t come. We don’t know why.”
The Biden administration has said it will use expedited screenings and deportations after Title 42 expires. Unlike under the public health order, defectors will be barred from trying to enter the U.S. for five years.
The administration is also expected to impose a rule that would deem people ineligible to seek asylum in the US if they pass through a third country before reaching the US border and do not first apply for protection. there.
The measure, dubbed the “asylum ban” by migrant rights groups, would broadly restrict asylum claims for Mexican nationals.
Earlier this year, the administration also announced a plan that would see Mexico take in up to 30,000 migrants and refugees from Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti and Venezuela each month.
At the same time, Washington said it will admit up to 30,000 people from the four countries each month if they meet certain criteria, including having US sponsors and passing background checks. background.
The White House said Tuesday that the U.S. and Mexico agreed to “continue to implement successful joint initiatives” after the end of Title 42.