Massive migrant crossing floods Texas border facilities
The images of a large number of migrants, wading through the lower sections of the Rio Grande in El Paso, immediately recalled previous moments of crisis on the southern border, most recently in the small town of Del Rio, Texas, where more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, crammed in squalid conditions in a temporary camp under a bridge along the river last year.
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The scenes provided a potential window into the situation border officials are bracing for as early as next week, when a pandemic health policy known as Title 42 is set to expire. The policy, put in place by the Trump administration and continued under President Biden under a court order, has allowed US authorities to quickly deport migrants, even those seeking asylum, to help to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the United States is limited in its ability to deport Nicaraguans under public health authority for diplomatic reasons. Mexico will not accept them and the Biden administration cannot send repatriation flights. As a result, most Nicaraguans apprehended are either released on short parole with a tracking device or sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for brief detention, where they are usually released after a few days.
Eventually, they will face deportation proceedings in immigration court. Border officials could also issue a warrant and an immigration court appearance date, but this is a process that can take around two hours for each person and result in significant back-ups, contributing to overcrowding.
The group arriving on Sunday included migrants who had traveled from several countries in Central and South America, as well as Haiti, and who had obtained temporary legal status in Mexico allowing them to travel freely in that country for 180 days, said said Santiago González. Reyes, the head of the human rights offices in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso.
The government of the Mexican state of Chihuahua had transported a caravan of around 1,100 migrants to Juarez on Sunday afternoon, González said. The buses, about 19 of them, were paid for by the Mexican government, he said, which had estimated the migrants would have marched north anyway and provided police escort to ensure their safety.
The group did not stay long in Juárez. Around 4 p.m., the migrants decided to cross the border en masse, he said, and hundreds more joined them. “They left on foot and crossed the river,” Mr. González said.