Social Issues

Migrants on US-Mexico border fear new kind of family separation

By Manuel Ocaño

San Diego, California, May 5 (EFE).- Male migrants trying to enter the United States from Mexico told EFE that the US Border Patrol has been allowing their wives and children to cross from Tijuana to San Diego while denying them admission, which those fathers describe as a new version of family separation.

“They have not allowed us to pass. Only our wives, our women enter,” Leonardo Acevedo said.

The Colombian is one of hundreds of migrants who remain camped out between the two border barriers ahead of the impending end of the use of Title 42, a provision of federal health law allowing the exclusion of individuals when “there is serious danger of the introduction of (a communicable) disease into the United States.”

In 2020, then-President Donald Trump invoked Title 42 to order the immediate expulsion of foreigners arriving at the border to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

While Trump’s Democratic successor, Joe Biden, sought to end the application of Title 42, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Republican state governments who challenged the policy change.

But with the pandemic public health emergency set to expire on May 11, Title 42 will no longer be applicable.

Acevedo said that the Border Patrol recently opened the gate in the second barrier to admit some 30 mothers and children, while leaving the men behind.

“We are staying here until they let us in because we want to be among the first to cross when Title 42 ends,” he said.

Pedro Rios, director of the US/Mexico Program at the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, told EFE that the Border Patrol probably wanted to spare the women and child exposure to the current spell of cold, rainy weather.

At the same time, he said, separating families spurs anxiety among the migrants.

Under the 2017-2021 Trump administration, US immigration officials routinely separated children from their parents and spouses from their partners, leading to an international outcry.

The policy was eventually discontinued, but not before authorities lost track of where they sent people. Some parents had to wait months to be reunited with their kids.

Declining to give his name, another Colombian man told EFE he doesn’t know what to call the place where he finds himself: “Here between the two walls I’m not sure if it’s Tijuana or San Diego.”

On Thursday, Rios and two volunteers passed food and bottles of water to the migrants through the bars of the second fence.

“Some of them remain for several days, because the Border Patrol’s process of taking them in is very slow, and they give priority to people who are possibly in a more vulnerable situation,” Rios said.

The men left behind between the fences don’t know where their wives and children will be taken “or if they will see them again,” the migrants rights advocate said.

The Border Patrol did not respond to questions from EFE about family separation at the San Diego-Tijuana crossing.

US immigration officials have warned that the end of Title 42 does not mean the border is open, and they say that detentions at the border are likely to rise.

More than 109,000 people have been detained by the Border Patrol in the San Diego Sector since the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, 2022.

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