TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The pandemic-era asylum boundaries known as Title 42 have rarely been discussed among tens of thousands of migrants massed on Mexico’s border with the United States.
Their eyes were – and are – instead fixed on a new US government mobile app that grants 1,000 people a day an appointment to cross the border and seek asylum while living in the United States. With demand far outstripping available slots, applying has been an exercise in frustration. for many — and a test of the Biden administration’s strategy of coupling new legal avenues of entry with dire consequences for those who don’t.
“You start to lose hope but it’s the only way,” Teresa Muñoz, 48, who abandoned her home in the Mexican state of Michoacan after a gang killed and beat her husband. She has been trying for a month to enter through the app, called CBPOne, while staying at a Tijuana shelter with her two children and 2-year-old grandson.
US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Border Patrol made 6,300 arrests on Friday – the first day after Title 42 expired – and 4,200 on Saturday. That’s well below 10,000-plus on three days last week as migrants rushed to enter before new asylum restriction policies took effect.
“It’s still early days,” Mayorkas said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re on day three, but we’ve been planning this transition for months and months. And we’ve executed our plan. And we will continue to do so.”
Despite the drop in recent days, authorities expect arrests to reach between 12,000 and 14,000 a day, Matthew Hudak, deputy border patrol chief, said Friday. And authorities cannot confidently estimate the number of people who will cross, Hudak said, noting that intelligence reports failed to quickly point to a “singular increase” of 18,000 mostly Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021.
More than 27,000 migrants were detained along the border one day last week, a number that could exceed 45,000 by the end of May if authorities cannot release the migrants without an order to appear in court. immigration, Hudak said.
The administration plans to ask an appeals court on Monday for permission to release migrants without a warrant to appear. Authorities say it takes between 90 minutes and two hours to process a single adult in court – potentially suffocating Border Patrol detention facilities – and longer to process families. By contrast, it only takes 20 minutes to release someone with instructions to report to an immigration office within 60 days, a common practice since 2021 to reduce overcrowding along the border.
The Ministry of Justice has even raised the possibility of refusing to take people into custody if it cannot release the migrants quickly, calling it a “worst-case scenario”.
The administration is touting new legal avenues in an effort to deter illegal crossings, including parole for 30,000 Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans per month who apply online with a financial sponsor and arrive at an airport.
Hundreds of mostly Colombian migrants waited to be processed in scorching heat near Jacumba, Calif., on Saturday after sleeping for days in thatched-roof tents east of San Diego and making do with the limited supply of biscuits and water from Border Patrol. Several said they crossed illegally after trying the app unsuccessfully or hearing stories of frustration from others.
Ana Cuna, 27, said she and other Colombians paid $1,300 each to be guided across the border after reaching Tijuana. She said she hit American soil hours before Title 42 expired Thursday but, like others, was given a numbered bracelet by Border Patrol and two days later had not been processed.
Under Title 42, a public health rule, migrants have been denied asylum more than 2.8 million times on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. When it expired, the administration launched a policy of denying asylum to people crossing from another country, such as Mexico, to the United States, with some exceptions.
“We want to come according to the law and be welcomed,” said Cuna, whose thatched roof tent included Colombian women and families hoping to reach Chicago, San Antonio, Philadelphia and Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The release of migrants without a court order but with instructions to report an immigration office within 60 days became widespread in 2021. Directing this processing work to state immigration and customs offices States when migrants report to agency offices has created additional delays – with ICE offices in New York saved until 2033 just to schedule a first court appearance.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell of Pensacola, Fla., ordered an end to the practice in March, which the administration effectively stopped anyway. He chose not to appeal the decision but reactivated the policy last week, calling it an emergency response. The state of Florida protested and Wetherell ordered the administration to avoid quick releases for two weeks. He has scheduled a hearing for Friday.
Since CBPOne started January 12 for asylum seekers, it has infuriated many with error messages, difficulty taking photos and a frenetic daily ritual racing thumbs on phone screens until time slots run out in minutes.
In Tijuana, Muñoz considered being smuggled through the mountains east of San Diego, but determined that it would cost too much. She is still haunted by walking through the Arizona desert in the mid-2000s on a grueling week-long trek. After saving money by working double shifts in a supermarket near Los Angeles, she returned to Mexico to raise her children.
Last week, the administration increased the number of slots to 1,000 from 740, allocated on the app, started prioritizing those who try the longest, and released slots gradually throughout the day. instead of all at once, which had created mad rushes. So far, Muñoz said she remains unconvinced.
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