Migrants at the US-Mexico border await decision on asylum limits

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Francisco Palacios waited four hours with his wife and 3-year-old daughter at a border crossing between Tijuana and San Diego early Wednesday before heading to a nearby hotel for a three-hour nap. They returned, their bags packed, only to be disappointed again.

But the family from the western Mexican city of Morelia is prepared to wait for the United States Supreme Court to decide whether and when to lift the pandemic-era restrictions that have prevented many from seeking asylum, Palacios said.

“We have no other choice,” Palacios said in Spanish, explaining that his family arrived in Tijuana two weeks ago to escape violence and gangs that have extorted a portion of their income from them for years by selling fruit from a street cart.

They are among the thousands of migrants gathering along the Mexican side of the border, camping outside or ducking into shelters as the weather turns colder.

The limits on border crossings expired on Wednesday. before conservative-leaning states sought the help of the high court to keep them in place. The Biden administration asked the court lift the restrictions, but not before Christmas. It is unclear when the court’s decision will arrive.

Members of the Texas National Guard took up positions in El Paso at the behest of the state, while volunteers and law enforcement officials feared some migrants might succumb to the cold. Nighttime temperatures have been in the 30s and will be even colder over the next few days. The Roman Catholic Diocese of El Paso, where nighttime temperatures could drop to 20 degrees this week, planned to open two more shelters for up to 1,000 people at area churches.

Jhorman Morey, a 38-year-old Venezuelan mechanic, warmed his hands by a campfire with half a dozen other migrants on the south side of the Rio Grande. He said he was waiting for a decision on the restrictions before trying to cross into the U.S. Other migrants waded through shallow water toward a gate in the border fence.

“I want them to decide” on the public health rule known as Title 42, said Morey, who arrived six weeks ago in the Mexican city of Juárez, across the border from El Paso. He now rarely eats after depleting his savings.

Hundreds of migrants remained in line in Juárez. Others slept along the cement embankments of the Rio Grande.

As crowds gathered on the banks of the river, 1st Sgt. Suzanne Ringle said a woman went into labor and was assisted by Border Patrol agents. She added that there were many children in the crowd.

In Tijuana, approximately 5,000 migrants were staying in more than 30 shelters and many more were renting rooms and apartments. Layered, tapered-topped walls that rise 30 feet (9 meters) along the San Diego border make the area intimidating for illegal crossings.

An atmosphere of resignation prevailed in the Agape shelter in Tijuana, which on Wednesday housed 560 migrants, mostly Mexicans.

Maricruz Martínez, who arrived with her 13-year-old daughter five weeks ago after fleeing violence in the Mexican state of Michoacán, said rumors that migrants should line up at the border crossing into San Diego on Monday were rampant.

Albert Rivera, the shelter’s pastor and director, called a meeting to tell migrant people that they should only trust official US sources. He convinced most of the occupants, but said he would like the US government to The US will provide more detailed updates.

A Mexican woman staying at the shelter with her husband and 11-year-old son, who declined to give her name because she is being pursued by a gang, said she fled her town of about 40 houses in Michoacan state after a gang forced her. her brother to join her, she killed him and then burned down her house. The final straw came after the gang forced her 15-year-old son to join them under threat of killing the family and demanded that her husband join, sending photos of severed limbs as a message of the price of the endurance.

The woman said the gang took her husband’s refusal as an insult. “They think we’re making fun of them for not wanting to join them,” she said, fighting back tears.

The pastor said psychologists had interviewed the woman and hoped she would be exempt from Title 42.

A Mexican who asked to be identified by his first name, Brian, for security reasons, said his refusal to join a gang after seven years in the military led him to flee his home in Guerrero state with his wife and two children two months behind. Avoid leaving the shelter except for quick shopping trips.

Brian said he applied for a waiver of the asylum ban.

“Desperate, sad,” he said, describing his thoughts when he learned that Title 42 would be extended beyond Wednesday. “It’s dangerous because you don’t know who might be following you.”

Under Title 42, officials have removed asylum seekers from within the United States 2.5 million times and have turned away the majority of people who applied for asylum at the border, on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. 19.

Immigration advocates have said the restrictions run counter to US and international obligations for people fleeing to the US to escape persecution, and that the pretext is outdated as anti-immigration treatments improve. coronavirus. They sued to end the use of Title 42; a federal judge sided with them in November, setting a December 21 deadline.

Conservative-leaning states appealed to the Supreme Court, warning that an increase in migration would hurt public services. and cause an “unprecedented calamity” that they said the federal government had no plan to deal with.

In response, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary order to keep the restrictions in place.

The federal government then asked the Supreme Court to reject the states’ effort while acknowledging that abruptly ending the restrictions will likely lead to “disruptions and a temporary increase in illegal border crossings.”

The states filed a response early Wednesday, arguing that letting the restrictions expire while the court reviews the lower court’s decision would cause “immediate, serious and irreversible damage” to the states.

Although Wednesday’s due date was set weeks ago, the US government called for more time to prepare, while saying it has sent more resources to the border.

Some 23,000 agents are deployed on the southern border, according to the White House. The Biden administration said he has dispatched more Border Patrol processing coordinators and increased surveillance and increased security at ports of entry.

If the Supreme Court acts before Friday, the government wants the restrictions to be in place until the end of December 27. If the court acts on or after Friday, the government wants the limits to hold until the second business day after the order.

Title 42 allows the government to expel asylum seekers of all nationalities, but it disproportionately affects people from countries whose citizens Mexico has agreed to accept: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and, most recently, Venezuela, in addition to Mexico.


Rebecca Santana in Washington, DC, Juan Lozano in Houston, Alicia Fernández in Ciudad Juárez, and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan contributed to this report.

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