US to accept asylum applications again at southern border next month after pandemic pause

The United States will end a sweeping pandemic-related deportation policy that effectively shut down the U.S. asylum system at the border with Mexico, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday.

The Title 42 public health order will remain in effect until May 23, Mayorkas said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which issued the order in March 2020 as countries around the world closed their borders amid COVID-19 fears, said it was no longer needed. to limit the spread of the virus.

“After considering current public health conditions and increased availability of tools to combat COVID-19 [such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics]the Director of the CDC has determined that an order suspending the right to bring migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” the CDC said in a separate statement.

Republican President Donald Trump’s administration continued to renew Title 42 – a World War II-era public health measure on communicable diseases – until the end of his term, Democrat Joe’s administration Biden has kept the measure in place for more than a year since his inauguration.

The Biden administration had a deadline Friday to announce whether it would renew or end the practice, its rationale appearing to be weakened by a relaxation of nationwide COVID mitigation measures.

The United States prepares plans to cope with the expected influx

The White House expects an influx of people at the border if Title 42, a COVID-era order that has blocked more than a million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, is lifted, the White House said on Wednesday. Director of Communications Kate Bedingfield.

The Biden White House is planning for multiple contingencies around the policy, she said, without specifying.

Mayorkas said in his statement that more than 600 law enforcement officers have already been redeployed to the border.

“We have a comprehensive whole-of-government strategy in place to manage any potential increase in the number of migrants encountered at our border,” Mayorkas said. “We are increasing our capacity to process new arrivals, assess asylum claims and rapidly deport those who are not eligible for protection.

The administration will step up its vaccination program at the border, he added.

More than a million migrants have been deported under the order since it was put in place in March 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the policy, U.S. border agents quickly return people to Mexico or other countries, often within hours of arrest, without giving them the opportunity to seek refuge, a process that rights groups say human rights, illegally denying them access to asylum.

Migrants and asylum seekers march March 21 to protest the Title 42 policy in Tijuana, near the San Ysidro port of entry shared with California. (Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images)

In a public square in Reynosa, Mexico, nearly 2,000 migrants are camping in tents or under tarps just across the US border from McAllen, Texas. Most are from South and Central America and the Caribbean and have fled violence or persecution in their country of origin.

Thursday morning, under a blazing sun, a dozen migrants lined up to see volunteer health workers in the camp. A group of women were frying fish over an open flame and children were running around, playing with marbles, racing scooters and sweeping up trash.

Aile Rodriguez, 32, has family in McAllen but has been waiting since last August at camp with her three children, ages eight, 13 and 15. She said they fled Honduras due to gang threats against their family and hope to seek asylum in the United States. “I want to enter legally,” she said. “That’s why we suffered here for seven months.”

Glendy Juana de Leon, 30, from Guatemala, said she was denied the chance to apply for asylum when she crossed the border in July. She has spent the nine months since her deportation in the Reynosa camp with her eight-year-old son. She said she left home after death threats from her husband, who is in jail for domestic violence but is expected to be released soon.

“I have all my documents, from the hospital, from the police in Guatemala, but they haven’t looked at any of them,” she said. “God willing, they will change,” she said, “and ask us why we fled.”

Thousands waiting

Across the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico, across from San Diego, Enrique Lucero, the city’s director of migrant services, said he estimated there were thousands of migrants waiting to apply for asylum.

“It gives them hope,” said Jose Maria Garcia, director of the Movimiento Juventud 2000 de Tijuana shelter, referring to plans to lift the 42 title.

Garcia and other immigrant advocates have long criticized the policy and applauded its end. But Garcia acknowledged the decision could put a strain on already crowded border shelters if more migrants head north.

“Most shelters are already at capacity,” he said.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Thursday that ending Title 42 would “effectively open our borders” and “trigger a humanitarian and security crisis like we’ve never seen.”

Republicans will likely focus on any border influx as the party seeks to win back one or both houses of Congress in November’s midterm elections.

Statement from the advocacy group American Immigration Council:

But Rep. Judy Chu of California called the order “a shameful moment in the history of our country,” while her Democratic House colleague from Texas, Veronica Escobar, said the 42 title “effectively eliminated the access to legal asylum in our country”.

“It’s high time to get this over with,” Escobar said.

Esteban Moctezuma, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, told an event in Washington that if Title 42 is lifted, migrants who do not seek refuge should be sent home to avoid a “revolving door” at the border .