Controversial US immigration policy allowing quick expulsion of migrants expires
El Paso, US, May 11 (EFE).- A controversial US immigration policy known as Title 42 ended at 9:59 pm on Thursday in Texas’ El Paso, where local, state and federal authorities have worked against the clock to prepare for a massive influx of people.
The pandemic-era border policy put in place in the spring of 2020 by former President Donald Trump allowed the immediate expulsion of undocumented migrants from the US on public health grounds without giving them the chance to request asylum.
The current administration, led by Democrat Joe Biden, had kept the policy in place despite criticism from human rights activists and his own party.
In front of gate number 42 in the border fence between Mexico and the United States, about 15 kilometers east of the town of El Paso, calm reigned.
On the northern side of the fence, dozens of journalists as well as several Border Patrol Agents remained stationed.
To the south of the five-and-a-half-meter-high wall, out of sight, some 400 refugees were waiting between the wall and Rio Bravo river, to be processed and transferred to the centers managed by the authorities.
At 3:15 pm, the border agents began transferring the most vulnerable migrants, especially minors, in a bus and several vans.
US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said on Thursday afternoon that the operation to transfer and process the migrants would last 24 hours.
A border agent at the gate confirmed that children were being transferred on a priority basis although he added that the temperature was mild and would not pose a danger to those who were still waiting.
“Starting tonight, people who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway will be presumed ineligible for asylum. We are ready to humanely process and remove people without a legal basis to remain in the US,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement on Thursday.
“We have 24,000 Border Patrol Agents and Officers at the Southwest Border and have surged thousands of troops and contractors, and over a thousand asylum officers to help enforce our laws. Do not believe the lies of smugglers,” he warned.
With the expiration of Title 42, the US will return to the pre-pandemic rules – known as Title 8 – for enforcing immigration law. Additionally, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced new measures that are designed to make it difficult for most migrants to qualify for asylum protection.
Under those new measures, migrants who cross the border illegally and did not request asylum in Mexico or another country en route to the US border will be immediately deemed ineligible to start the process. EFE