Biden seems to think so…
The end of Title 42, a pandemic-era law that restricted non-essential travel across the U.S. borders, came and went without the anticipated immediate influx of migrants. The predictions made by local and federal officials that the end of the law would lead to a surge in migration were defied.
According to two Homeland Security officials who spoke to NBC News on Saturday, Border Patrol agents apprehended just over 6,200 undocumented migrants crossing the border on Friday, the first day after Title 42 was lifted. This figure was lower than the numbers recorded on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday when 11,000, 11,000, and 10,000 migrants were apprehended, respectively.
The lower numbers on the first day of the law’s lifting could be attributed to rapidly spreading rumors on social media and a whisper network in Juárez, Mexico, which advised migrants to cross the border before the end of Title 42. Some migrants feared that their best chance to enter the U.S. was about to expire and acted accordingly.
However, despite the lower numbers, it remains to be seen what lies in store for many migrants and the border towns where they reside, however temporarily. The fate of those who turned themselves in after the lifting of Title 42 is unknown, and the border towns where they reside, including El Paso, Texas, are still grappling with the effects of immigration.
For instance, some nongovernmental organizations in El Paso said that their facilities were at or very near capacity on Friday. There were probably about 750 to 900 migrants in the wider shelter system in the city, including a school, hotel rooms, and NGO-run facilities. This number includes migrants and local people in need of shelter.
Moreover, many migrants are still fearful of possible punishments under Title 8, the section of U.S. law that was in place before Title 42 and is now being enforced again in its absence. This law imposes penalties, including a potential five-year ban and criminal prosecution, on those who repeatedly attempt to enter the U.S. illegally.
Some migrants turned themselves in to immigration authorities to seek asylum about a week earlier, like Rosa, her husband, and their three young children, who arrived at the Rescue Mission shelter. As Rosa spoke, her 6- and 9-year-old sons played around circular tables where dozens of migrants had gathered to eat dinner together. In a nearby room, her 2-year-old daughter slept under her father’s watchful eye.
Juan José Rivera, a Colombian migrant staying in the area outside Sacred Heart church, said fear of deportation and punishment “motivated a lot of people to turn themselves in.” He added that “Sadly, a lot of us were still turned away. But thank God we were allowed to come legally.” Rivera wore sneakers with bright turquoise laces and carried a clear plastic bag containing his immigration documents.
In recent days, there were as many as 3,300 migrants outside the center and a local church. That number has largely dissipated after hundreds turned themselves in for processing this week before the end of Title 42, urged by authorities who handed out flyers in areas where the migrants were camped.
Despite the initial lower numbers of migrants crossing the border, the fate of those who turned themselves in and the effects of immigration on border towns are still unknown and remain a pressing issue.