Huge numbers of people illegally crossed the border from Mexico over the weekend despite a federal judge’s order Friday that the Biden administration maintain the pandemic rule Title 42 for turning away migrants.
The wild weekend at the border illustrates the significant confusion already caused by the Biden administration's decision to lift Title 42, as well as the scale of the migration problem facing the country.
Republicans and some Democrats had initially breathed a sigh of relief Friday evening after U.S. District Judge Robert Summerhays of the Western District of Louisiana ruled that the Biden administration would have to keep in place Title 42, a public health measure that has allowed border officials to turn away illegal immigrants immediately amid the pandemic rather than take them into custody. Republicans and administration officials anticipated that large numbers of migrants just across the border would try to cross as soon as Title 42 ended, overwhelming already strained border enforcement.
But even though Title 42 was kept in place, migration still surged. In parts of the border, such as western Arizona, U.S. border officials saw more people crossing and surrendering to agents than in any time before. Apprehensions by the Border Patrol in Yuma, Arizona, jumped from around 1,000 per day in April to 1,285 in the 24-hour span that ended Saturday morning, according to federal data shared with the Washington Examiner.
On Saturday, roughly 1,300 people were apprehended in Yuma. The number jumped again Sunday to nearly 1,500, according to Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines, who toured the border with media Monday.
FEDERAL JUDGE STOPS BIDEN FROM ENDING TITLE 42 BORDER POLICY
Migrants looking to cross the Rio Grande from the Mexican city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, into Eagle Pass, Texas, on Monday told reporters that they thought Title 42 had been lifted and that they would not be expelled back to Mexico if they crossed.
Further in town, @VenturaReport and I met these migrants from El Salvador and Honduras who said they still plan on crossing into the U.S. despite Title 42 remaining in place. One man said he still thought Title 42 was lifted today. pic.twitter.com/NuSgqfmtUm— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) May 23, 2022
Eagle Pass, a town of 30,000 that is located in south-central Texas and part of the Border Patrol's Del Rio sector, also saw a sharp rise in migrants taken into custody this weekend. In the same 24-hour cycle from Friday into Saturday, 1,831 people were intercepted, compared to an average of 1,361 in April.
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, the 995 people apprehended per day jumped to 1,296.
7-year-old boy from El Salvador puts on his life jacket to prepare to cross the dangerous Rio Grande River into the US. Sources tell me that 3 migrants drowned this morning around 7 am. Despite 42 ruling thousands of migrants prepare to cross illegally @DailyCaller pic.twitter.com/I1iB86SfFK— Jorge Ventura Media (@VenturaReport) May 23, 2022
Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas encountered more than 500 people across four large groups that crossed the river. A large group consists of 100 or more people crossing at once.
Large groups continue to flood RGV. Agents encountered four large groups totaling over 500 migrants and interdicted five human smuggling events totaling 33 arrested over the weekend.— Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings (@USBPChiefRGV) May 23, 2022
Read more:https://t.co/bomc1P8mcy pic.twitter.com/odtA2ACOPt
The government in April announced it was increasingly using a pre-pandemic process known as "expedited removal" to repatriate people to their home countries, though the removals are contingent on that person not claiming a fear of being returned, which triggers the asylum process.
A person who claims asylum during the expedited removal process will undergo an initial asylum screening, called a "credible fear" interview, and be referred to immigration court if they pass.
Starting Monday, the Biden administration has instructed federal law enforcement to give migrants who would normally be immediately expelled without getting a chance to seek asylum under Title 42 the chance to seek refuge before being returned. This will largely affect migrants from Central America, whom the government has been able to return to the region.
This policy change was enacted to ensure U.S. border officials are complying with a March 4 court ruling that bars them from using Title 42 to expel families with children to places where they could be persecuted or tortured. That ruling took effect today.https://t.co/eiqqSWz290— Camilo Montoya-Galvez (@camiloreports) May 23, 2022
Federal asylum officers have been deployed from across the country to the southern border, where they can screen migrants in an effort to handle more cases there rather than release migrants into the United States to appear in court years down the road. Despite the influx of asylum officers to assist law enforcement with screening migrants, thousands are being released into the U.S. even though they have not claimed asylum or made a claim without screening.
The Biden administration announced in March that it would allow asylum officers to make the final decisions on migrants' asylum claims, a significant change meant to turn the yearslong process into one resolved in a matter of months.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the change will "reduce the burden on our immigration courts," where approximately 500 judges have more than 1.5 million total immigration cases before them.
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Under Title 42, noncitizens have been turned away more than 1.6 million times, many of them multiple times, since its implementation in March 2020. Under the new rule, those who had been expeditiously removed will be able to seek refuge. If their initial claim of having a credible fear of returning to their home country meets the threshold, it will proceed to the judges and, now, asylum officers.