The US Mexico border is looking relatively calm following the conclusion of Title 42

The United States now effectively prohibits immigrants from seeking asylum in the country unless they first apply for asylum online or first seek protection in the countries through which they have traveled.

Things were relatively calm on the US-Mexico border on Friday, with few signs of the chaos that had been feared following the surge of migrants heading to the US ahead of the end of coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions wanted to enter.

Less than 24 hours after the rules known as Title 42 were lifted, migrants and US authorities are still assessing the impact of the change and new regulations passed by President Joe Biden’s administration to stabilize the region.

“This morning we did not see any significant increase in immigration,” said Blas Nunez-Neto, deputy minister of immigration and border policy at the Department of Homeland Security. He added that the agency doesn’t have concrete numbers as the situation has just started.

Migrants along the border continued to enter the Rio Grande (or Grande) to enter the United States while challenging agents on the other side and yelling at them to turn back. Others tried to access the dating app on their cell phones, a crucial process in the new system. Dating migrants crossed a bridge in hope of a new life. In addition, they tried to stop at least some of the measures with legal demands.

Residents of Matamoros, Mexico stand on the Puerto Nuevo Bridge early Friday, May 12, 2023, awaiting their turn to legally cross the border into Brownsville, Texas. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

The Biden administration has claimed that the new system aims to limit unauthorized border crossings and create a new legal route for immigrants, who pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers to bring them into the United States.

The United States now effectively prohibits immigrants from seeking asylum in the country unless they first apply for asylum online or first seek protection in the countries through which they have traveled. Families allowed entry as their immigration cases progress are subject to curfews and GPS surveillance.

In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, many migrants stared at their cellphones in hopes of snagging a coveted appointment to enter the United States. The registration app has changed, so some others explained how to use it. Most were resigned to waiting.

“I hope things get a little bit better and that the appointments come a little quicker,” said Yeremy Depablos, a 21-year-old Venezuelan who travels with seven cousins ​​and has been waiting in the city for a month. Fearing deportation, Depablos did not want to cross without permission. “You have to do it legally.”

The legal channels sponsored by the US government consist of a program that allows entry of up to 30,000 people per month from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela if they submit an application online, have a financial sponsor and by air enter.

A woman holds up her bracelet to show US Border Patrol agents that she and her daughter have waited the longest time between two border walls for an asylum application on Friday, May 12, 2023, in San Diego, California, USA.

About 100 processing centers will open in Guatemala, Colombia and elsewhere, where migrants can apply for visas to enter the United States, Spain or Canada. Approximately 1,000 people can enter through land crossings from Mexico daily provided they make an appointment through the app.

If it works, the system could fundamentally change the way migrants get to the United States. But Biden, who is running for re-election, has come under fire from both immigration advocates – who say the president is eschewing more humane methods – and Republicans who claim he is taking a soft stance on border security.

On Friday, some migrants at the El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana turned to US authorities for not being able to access the dating app. One of them, a Salvadoran named Jairo, said he was fleeing death threats in his country.

Also read USA: Encouraging “safe and orderly” migration before the end of Title 42 is a priority

“We’re scared, the truth,” said Jairo, who is traveling with his partner and their three-year-old son and declined to give his last name. “We can no longer stay in Mexico and we cannot go back to Guatemala or El Salvador. If the United States cannot take us, I hope they will send us to another country.”

Further east, small groups of Haitian migrants with appointments to seek asylum crossed the Gateway International Bridge, which connects Matamoros, Mexico, to Brownsville, Texas. They did so with the help of an NGO and forestalled the usual traffic of students and workers queuing on the pedestrian area of ​​the bridge.

In downtown El Paso, dozens of migrants lined up in front of the Sacred Heart Church and shelter where nearly 2,000 migrants were still camped Tuesday. Religious leaders in the city are working to offer migrants shelter, legal advice and prayers as they navigate the new restrictions.

Reverend Daniel Mora said most migrants heeded leaflets distributed by US immigration officials this week offering them a “last chance” to submit to prosecution and left. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said 1,800 migrants turned themselves in to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Thursday.

Melissa López, executive director of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso, said many migrants have been willing to follow the legal path created by the US government, but there are also fears of deportation and potential criminal penalties for those who do cross the border without legal permission.

Rubén García, director of the Annunciation House in El Paso and coordinator of a regional network of migrant shelters, said he fears migrants transiting through Mexico could be diverted by smugglers from cities with humanitarian infrastructure into remote and deserted areas off the border He noted that thousands of migrants are currently going through two US immigration processing centers in El Paso and there is uncertainty about subsequent deportations and controlled releases.

The pause in border crossings follows a recent surge in migrants hoping to be allowed to remain in the United States before Title 42 restrictions expire.

Title 42 has been in effect since March 2020, allowing border officials to quickly send asylum seekers back across the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The United States has declared the national emergency over and lifted restrictions.

Although Title 42 discouraged many from seeking asylum, it had no legal ramifications, prompting repeated entry attempts. From Thursday, those who cross illegally face an entry ban for up to five years and possible criminal charges.

Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz tweeted on Friday that the agency had arrested 67,759 people in the past week. That’s an average of 9,679 per day, almost double the daily average of 5,200 in March.

The number is slightly below the 11,000 number that authorities have set as the high, which is what they expected after Title 42 ended, but it was not clear when the numbers peaked in the hours leading up to Title 42’s end. Thursday evening.

[Con información de The Associated Press]

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