The Calm Before the Storm: Migrants in Mexican Border Town Can't Wait Until Title 42 Is Removed

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Posted: Apr 07, 2022 10:00 AM
The Calm Before the Storm: Migrants in Mexican Border Town Can't Wait Until Title 42 Is Removed

Source: Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico — Eddie Leon and his family were waiting in the pedestrian walkway of the international bridge that leads to Eagle Pass, Texas. Watching over his two young daughters, his wife was talking with Mexican immigration officials to get an immigration status so they can have an easier time waiting in Mexico until May 23.

That Monday next month is on the minds of many migrants like Eddie and his family, originally from Honduras, because that is when Title 42 will no longer be enforced by Border Patrol. Title 42 has allowed Border Patrol to quickly expel illegal immigrants to prevent overcrowding at holding facilities so individuals do not spread COVID-19 amongst each other and to agents. 

Title 42 has been heavily criticized by immigration activists and organizations because they say it denies people the chance to claim asylum, adding it doesn't work to deter illegal crossings since the rapid expulsions do not have any major punishments attached to them, resulting in some people crossing multiple times. Under the Biden administration, Title 42 has not been applied to unaccompanied minors or many family units.

Eddie told Townhall that he and his family had illegally crossed into the U.S. some 12 days ago only to be expelled under Title 42. Now, they are waiting to cross America's southern border next month because they heard about the upcoming change to Title 42 "like everyone else" and they are not alone with their plan.

"Yes, they are waiting. There are many families and kids like mine," he said.

Maria from Honduras — which is not her real name as she did not want to be identified, on video, or photographed — said she was waiting to illegally cross the Rio Grande after May 23 because she had already sent her children across the border in February after they were expelled under Title 42 the first time they crossed together. Alone and feeling unsafe in the border town by herself, Maria said many people like her are waiting for Title 42 to no longer be enforced.

Jamie was sent back to Mexico under Title 42 when he illegally crossed the border from Reynosa, which sits opposite of McAllen, Texas. Coming from Nicaragua, Jamie is in Piedras Negras because he is now enrolled in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as Remain-in-Mexico. MPP was at first canceled by Biden adminstration until ordered by a federal judge to restart the program. Jamie does not plan on illegally crossing again since he is enrolled in MPP, but said the other single men he was with outside the city's bus station will do so because it'll be "easier" to cross over.

As word is spreading among the migrants in Mexico about the sunset date of Title 42, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is preparing to apprehend up to 18,000 illegal immigrants per day once Title 42 is no longer in use. White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield admitted to reporters last week when Title 42 is lifted, "there will be an influx of people to the border." DHS is using the time between now and May 23 to build up holding capacity for the expected wave of people. While many migrants are preparing for May 23, recent arrivals to Piedras Negras, fresh from their long journey, have yet to hear about the upcoming change.

While many migrants were waiting in Piedras Negras on Wednesday, others decided to make a run at crossing the fast-moving Rio Grande. A group waded into the river once they realized Mexican National Guard and immigration officials were coming to stop them. After losing a few plastic bags to the river's current, they all made it the American side and turned themselves in to the U.S. National Guardsman who was waiting for them.

Townhall Media/Julio Rosas

Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who served under former President Barack Obama, previously said he considered it a crisis when agents were apprehending 1,000 people per day along the southern border.

"Typically, the largest months are March and April...We are about to hit one million in six months. My highest year was 468,000 the entire year, and that politically felt like the world was coming to an end. These are very, very large numbers. They are unsustainable in my view," Johnson said on MSNBC last week. "You make a good point that, if Title 42 is lifted, then the public health debate may move to the southern border."