By Guadalupe Peñuelas
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Nov 16 (EFE).- Thousands of Venezuelan migrants stranded in northern Mexico were have been given fresh hope after a federal judge in Washington DC blocked the US government from using Title 42, a measure that had allowed the immediate expulsion of foreigners arriving at the US-Mexico border to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The change will not be immediate, however, as US District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Wednesday granted a US Justice Department request to allow five weeks for immigration officials to comply with the order.
Sullivan on Tuesday described Title 42, which then-head of state Donald Trump imposed in 2020 and has been maintained during the administration of current President Joe Biden, as “arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.”
This latest development comes just over a month after the Biden administration, in a bid to slow a sharp increase in Venezuelan migrants, had expanded Title 42 to include that group of foreign arrivals.
Prior to last month, Venezuelans had been encouraged to make the long journey to the US, secure in the knowledge that the lack of formal diplomatic relations between their leftist-led homeland and Washington meant they could not easily be sent back.
The so-called “joint actions with Mexico” announced on Oct. 12 allowed up to 24,000 Venezuelans who arrive by plane and have a US-based financial sponsor to apply for a humanitarian parole program and be granted temporary permission to work in the country.
But many more Venezuelan migrants who are unable to meet those conditions have been camping out in tents in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican border city located just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, to pressure the US government.
On Wednesday, US immigration agents were on alert for potential river crossings after hundreds of migrants left their provisional homes and approached that natural border.
“I’ve been here for more than 11 months. I crossed the most dangerous jungle (the roadless Darien Gap on the border between Colombia and Panama). This removal of Title 42 (offers) hope,” Venezuelan migrant Edixon Ritz Meza told Efe.
“Since Oct. 12 there’s been a humanitarian mechanism that allows Venezuelans to cross, but one of the most important requirements, and what keeps us stranded here, is that we need to have a family member in the United States,” he recalled.
Maria Mejia arrived in Ciudad Juarez with two children aged four and six, but her plans were interrupted by the US Department of Homeland Security’s Oct. 12 announcement.
“We have hope and faith in God. It’s been difficult to be here with the cold (in Ciudad Juarez), and we’ve gotten sick. The churches have helped us with food,” she said.
Eduardo Villanueva, for his part, said he had been waiting for a blessing for more than a month and a half.
“And thank God that measure was removed. The United States put its hand on its heart and helped us. Thanks to Mexico, who also helped us,” he said.
“We’re happy because we’ve been waiting a long time, because we’re going to be able to help our families that we left behind in Venezuela. Thank God and the Mexican people who have helped us a lot,” Venezuelan migrant Jorma Enrique Sanz said.
The region has seen record migrant flows toward the US, whose Customs and Border Protection agency detained a record total of more than 2.76 million people in fiscal year 2022 (October 2021 to September of this year).
That 12-month period also was notable for substantial increases in apprehensions of Cuban and Venezuelan migrants.
But in spite of the restrictions put in place by the US, court rulings like the one on Tuesday have buoyed the spirits of Venezuelans like Maria Alejandra Rivas.
“The desire we all have is to cross. The cold is quite strong and we have to put up with it. When you leave your home, you risk whatever for a better future for your children. I’m not going to cross until it’s something official. My family and I have faith that God won’t abandon us,” she said. EFE