Live updates: The Texas border braces for the end of Title 42
This blog has ended.Join us here for the latest from the border and on Title 42.
At 11 p.m. CST today, Title 42 will end. The restriction has allowed the U.S. to quickly send migrants — even those seeking asylum — out of the country since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic.
What will the end of Title 42 mean for migrants, Texans living on the border, and immigration as we know it? The Texas Newsroom's reporters will be on the border — from El Paso to Big Bend to the Rio Grande Valley — today and Friday, sharing updates here and on your local NPR station. Follow along as we document the story unfold in real time.
- Title 42 was meant to slow COVID at the border. It's being used to manage migration
- U.S. anticipates an increase in asylum-seekers as Title 42 is set to end
- Migrants in El Paso count themselves lucky ahead of Title 42's expiration next week
The Texas Newsroom is a public radio journalism collaboration that includes NPR, KERA in North Texas, Houston Public Media, KUT in Austin, Texas Public Radio in San Antonio and other stations across the state.
Title 42 has been lifted. Officials fear people will drown trying to cross the Rio Grande
Title 42 has officially ended, but border officials said they fear people will attempt to cross the Rio Grande late into the night Thursday.
Migrants have drowned in the river, which is unexpectedly deep in areas.
In Matamoros across from Brownsville, thousands of people are camped out for the opportunity to seek asylum in the U.S.
While most people were denied the chance to seek asylum when Title 42 was in place, there is a lot of confusion here as to whether their odds are any better now.
Raquel Garrido is 23 and from Venezuela. She was one of the thousands who walked to the Rio Grande at 11:00pm Thursday with her 10-month-old daughter because someone told her it was possible to cross here without patrol from law enforcement. But she said she’s hesitant to cross.
"I don't know whether to go through that river...it's not so much the river but the barbed wire," she told TPR.
Mexican officials told TPR they were worried about the large number of illegal crossings into the night in dangerous areas of the Rio Grande, fearing there would be fatalities.
Most major border crossings in Texas weren't as overwhelmed as feared Thursday. Matamoros was a different story
While other major border crossings in Texas were not as overwhelmed as officials feared, people living in the large migrant camp in Matamoros grew increasingly confused Thursday.
Groups of migrants walked the perimeter of the border, crossing the Rio Grande illegally in areas not patrolled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection or Gov. Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star.
Mexican officials told TPR they were worried about the large number of crossings into the night in dangerous areas of the Rio Grande, fearing there would be fatalities. One official with Mexico's Migration Institute told shelters in the area that once Title 42 is lifted Thursday, there would be 50 slots available daily for asylum seekers to cross legally, and those slots would be controlled by shelters. TPR has not confirmed this with U.S. officials. The Biden administration rescinded this practice, known as "metering," last year.
South Texas counties declare state of disaster to access federal, state funds
Border counties in deep South Texas are declaring states of disaster ahead of Title 42’s lifting tonight.
The declarations, from Cameron and Hidalgo Counties, come as migrants attempt to enter the South Texas border. The counties will now have access to state and federal resources, the declarations state.
Migrants are attempting to gain entry into the country before the Title 42 policy expires, when stricter asylum policies will take effect.
The declaration will last seven days.
Migrants passing through San Antonio say they're looking for work and to reunite with family
The San Antonio’s Migrant Resource Center (MRC) was busy but calm Thursday afternoon hours before the end of Title 42. The center temporarily hosts migrants who have crossed the southern border and assists them on their journey.
Migrants milled around in the shade in small groups outside of the center’s gates and walked out to get food from nearby restaurants. Two San Antonio Police Department officers stood under a tent at the MRC entrance.
Keinderbe Frainer Cazola Linares, a 29-year-old asylum-seeker from Venezuela, waited outside the shelter as people got their orders from Cici’s Pizza. He arrived in the U.S. through El Paso earlier this month, and has been at the shelter since.
He was traveling with extended family but left his children with his wife in Venezuela because “adults can survive starvation and suffering, but children can’t,” he said in Spanish, referring to the long journey he took to the U.S. He plans to go to New York City to work, and said he wants a better life for his family.
Linares said that the CBP One phone app, which migrants must use to make appointments to formally seek asylum, was so difficult to navigate that he and his family turned themselves into Customs and Border Protection officials instead.
The CBP One app was launched by the Biden administration in 2020 and has been plagued with errors that many migrants say makes it unusable.
Another migrant from Venezuela, 36-year-old Carla Fernández, said in Spanish that she and her three children aged 8, 9, and 14, had come to the United States to meet with their father, who has been living and working in Atlanta for the last year.
She said they arrived at the center Thursday morning and that the journey to the United States “was terrible." She said she thanked God that she and her children made it to San Antonio. She doesn’t yet know when they’ll be able to make her way to her husband in Atlanta, but is holding onto hope that her family will finally be reunited.
Most migrants who pass through the Texas-Mexico border spend at least a night in San Antonio on the way to their final destination.
Operation Lone Star erects barbed wire fencing along Rio Grande in Brownsville
The Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety set up barbed wire along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande in Brownsville across from a migrant camp in Matamoros, Mexico.
The effort is part of Gov. Abbott's controversial Operation Lone Star Program, which uses the guard and DPS to arrest migrants on state trespassing charges and to deter them from crossing. Immigration rights' advocates say the program is illegal because immigration is under the purview of the federal government, not the state's. Abbott has said he has stepped in because of federal government inaction. The program has cost $4 billion since its inception in 2021.
Illegal crossing in this area ceased temporarily Thursday, but officials are expecting more people to try crossing the Rio Grande in the evening as Title 42 pandemic border restrictions expire.
Gruz Roja Mexicana and Grupos Beta within Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Migración say they are ready to rescue migrants who may be at risk of drowning.
School for the deaf in Reynosa helps kidnapped Russian claim asylum in the U.S.
Roman Antonov fled Russia for fear of retaliation after he opposed the war in Ukraine. It took Antonov, who is deaf, two months to get to northern Mexico, only to be kidnapped and forced to pay $1,800 for his release. He spent time in a shelter in Reynosa before eventually finding a school for the deaf in Reynosa, which helped him get back on his feet.
“Our ministry doesn’t work with migrants directly. Our main focus is the deaf community in Mexico. But because Roman is a deaf individual, we felt that we could help him some,” said Marcus Rudd of 55 Ministries, which runs the school. “As a part of our vocational programming, because he did have metal working skills, we were able to incorporate him, pay him for the work he did for us so he could get around.”
Rudd said they helped Antonov put together his asylum case, and he successfully crossed on Wednesday. Now that he’s on the U.S. side, the group hopes to help him make his way to Los Angeles.
Migrants in Reynosa say app required to seek asylum is still glitchy
Even after U.S. Customs and Border Protection upgraded its CBP One App ahead of the end of Title 42, migrants in Reynosa told us they are still encountering glitches. The Biden administration has required that migrants use the app to seek asylum.
The glitches have left many migrants without a way to make an appointment to formally seek asylum.
As options narrow, people in Reynosa told us CBP One is taking a toll on their mental health.
Juan Manuel Lopez Castellano, a Venezuelan who lived in Colombia, was in Matamoros for four days before arriving in Texas.
“La aplicación es algo para las personas que quieran hacerlo por teléfono y de este lado te ayudan la imnmigracion para hacerlo de una vez breve y sin hacer muchas gestiones," he said.
Castellano says the CBP One app has too many users and takes too much time, so he turned himself into immigration for help with his asylum application.
Most migrants in Reynosa are Haitian and have decided to wait for the opportunity to make an appointment rather than cross illegally. A Nicaraguan family at the bridge said they preferred to wait because they believed not making an appointment through the app was more dangerous.
Newly arrived Venezuelan describes crossing through Matamoros
Luis Enrique Lameda Briseño arrived in McAllen Thursday morning after a long journey from Venezuela that included riding a train through Mexico.
“Thank God I have had support here and they’ve given us sustenance and food because we’ve been traveling for more than a month and a half and the worst is over," he said in Spanish.
He said he would use every tool at his disposal remain in the U.S. legally. His ultimate destination was San Antonio.
According to Briseño, the end of Title 42 has created an urgency to enter the United States.
“It creates panic for many people at the border and they throw themselves in the river and create a lot of trouble," he said.
Border Patrol apprehended around 10,000 people in Texas on Tuesday, among the highest ever, according to the AP.
Migrants sleeping on sidewalks in El Paso being processed
Hundreds of migrants have taken to sleeping on sidewalks in El Paso in recent months, awaiting their fate in the U.S.
But as of Thursday, only a few dozen remained outside of Sacred Heart Catholic church in downtown El Paso. Many migrants have been processed by immigration authorities and taken to local shelters or deported. Migrants who were processed and paroled may now head to other U.S. cities to await their court dates.
In El Paso Border Patrol agents open gate in the towering border barrier. Weary people waiting on the Mexican side walk through & turn themselves in to agents to be processed. This scene has been repeated for the past few days as T42 winds down pic.twitter.com/DEV0JB6Pvv— Angela Kocherga (@AngelaKBorder) May 11, 2023
At one of the more busy gates along the border fence in El Paso Thursday, U.S. Border Patrol agents were quickly busing families and single men to processing centers in town. The large group camped out at the gate was mostly gone.
Under Title 42, the pandemic era health order that ends Thursday night, the U.S. government expelled more than 2 million migrants, mainly to Mexico.
Immigrant rights' groups slam Biden for detention policy, arguing it echoes Trump
Ahead of the end of Title 42, immigrant rights’ groups Thursday slammed the Biden administration for its plans to implement detention or deterrence policies they say are reminiscent of his predecessor.
The administration announced earlier this week it would deny asylum to most migrants if they did not seek protection in another country first. Though there are some exceptions to who would be barred, thousands would be eligible for rapid expulsion under the rule, which was finalized this week. Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also worked with Mexico to receive expelled immigrants from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The administration also said that certain heads of family units that cross the border will be subject to ankle monitors and curfews.
This process, Family Expedited Removal Management, is designed to ensure families can go through the asylum process without being detained. But families who can’t establish a credible fear, the first step in the asylum process, “will generally be removed from the United States within 30 days,” according to a fact sheet from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“It is deeply troubling that despite the immense harm caused by Title 42, the Biden administration has once again, deliberately, turned its back on vulnerable people seeking safety at our borders with its proposed asylum ban,” said Marisa Limón Garza, the executive director of El Paso-based, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. “We need long-term solutions, including more accessible legal pathways to enter the U.S., not less. We cannot continue to rely on expedited removal and rapid screening processes in out-of-reach detention centers.”
The Texas Civil Rights Project called on Congress to come up with a permanent solution but said that until then, it feared the Biden White House would continue to follow Trump’s footsteps.
“Over the past three years, the [Title 42] policy toyed with people’s lives, forcing them to face the difficult choice of waiting for months on end at the border or finding alternate routes to seek safety,” Karla Marisol Vargas, a senior attorney for the Texas Civil Rights Project said in a statement. “Although this policy is ending, we unfortunately anticipate that this administration will continue its tradition of policies focused on denying many people access to life-saving humanitarian protections.”
Big Bend region isn't expecting a major influx of migrants
Just east of El Paso, in the Big Bend region of West Texas, Customs and Border Protection is not expecting a major influx of migrant crossings this week, a spokesperson said Tuesday.
The remote region spans more than 500 miles of the Rio Grande, nearly a quarter of the Southwest border. But with its rugged desert terrain and isolated communities, Big Bend has seen the fewest Title 42 expulsions of any Border Patrol sector along the border this fiscal year so far — just 5,145, compared with 120,374 in the El Paso Sector. Total apprehensions here have actually decreased in the same time period.
Still, local churches and volunteers across the area are rallying to receive any asylum seekers who do arrive in the coming weeks.
Last spring, residents of the small West Texas towns of Alpine, Marfa, and Fort Davis formed a group called the Alpine Border Coalition, meant to ease the arrival process for migrants released by Border Patrol to continue their asylum cases in the U.S.
“Immigration has always been a great thing for the country,” said Michael Carter, one of the group’s coordinators. “These people are truly, truly desperate and coming from desperate situations, and it's our normal human duty to help people when they're in need.”
Today, the group has about 50 volunteers. Many gathered at the Episcopal Church in Alpine on Tuesday to plan out their intake process and inventory donations they’ve gathered — from diapers and children’s books to travel kits with food, medical supplies, and clothing for long bus or plane trips to other parts of the country.
“My experience is the vast majority of people have contacts here, and either an NGO or family members they want to be reunited with,” Carter said. “Our job is to help them find their families and get them on their way.”
That job is more complicated in the Big Bend region than in other parts of Texas — the nearest airports are 200 miles away, and local bus transit is limited. ABC volunteers say they’re ready to offer rides to Midland and El Paso, and they’re brushing up on their Spanish to provide a warm welcome. For now, though, they’re still waiting to see how much their services will be needed.
North Texas church expects to receive 100 migrants daily after Title 42 expires
Oak Lawn United Methodist Church said it will receive migrants five days a week instead of weekly after Title 42 ends.
But the Dallas church says it’s preparing to receive — and help — more migrants seeking asylum.
Since 2019, Oak Lawn United Methodist Church has assisted migrants who are dropped off there after being processed at the border and immigration detention facilities. It’s a pit stop where church staff and volunteers provide clothing and help with travel arrangements before migrants continue to their final destination. Once there, they’re required to follow through the proper asylum-seeking process, such as appearing in immigration court.
“It will certainly be an increase in the work and the operation that we’re doing,” said Senior Pastor Rachel Griffin. “But because [in] this operation we see people come in and go out really all in one day, it’ll just be a lot of repetition of that throughout the week.”
Gov. Abbott to deploy additional National Guard units to the border
Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday a ramping up of his state-led border operation and claimed cartels are “collaborating” with the Biden administration to create an open border in Texas.
Against the backdrop of hundreds of Texas National Guard units boarding military airplanes at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Abbott announced the deployment of a new operations unit in anticipation of Title 42 ending this week.
In a brief news conference, the governor continued placing blame with the Biden administration with one of the sharpest rebukes to date.
“While Texas is doing everything possible to try and stop people from crossing the border, at the very same time the president of the United States is putting out the welcome mat, welcoming them in,” Abbott said. “The cartels know it is the federal government that controls the immigration process. The cartels are working in collaboration with President Biden and the federal government to facilitate the [illegally] crossed border. We are being overrun by our own federal government.”
Mother of victim in Brownsville migrant deaths honors her son
On Wednesday, the mother of Hector David Medina-Medero, who was killed on Sunday when a man drove his car into a group of migrants near a migrant shelter in Brownsville, honored her son. Marilin wrote Medina-Medero's name on a cross erected at the site, a makeshift memorial to the 8 people who died and 10 who were injured.
The driver, 34-year-old George Alvarez, was charged with reckless driving, eight counts of manslaughter and 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Judge in El Paso says migrant crossings 'manageable'
Border Patrol agents unlocked a gate in the steel border barrier and a line of bedraggled people walked through. Weary parents held the hands of bewildered children. Some looked relieved. Others were in tears like Isabel Ramirez.
She said she was carrying the ashes of her 13-year-old daughter who was murdered in Mexico.
“It was her dream to be here but not like this,” Ramirez said.
The migrants boarded a white bus headed for a processing center. Border Patrol is seeing about 1150 people a day turn themselves in according to agent Fidel Baca.
“As we transport people out there’s more people coming in,” he said.
El Paso is preparing for migrants to converge on the city as the pandemic health order Title 42 expires Thursday. Since March of 2020 a majority of migrants from various countries including those seeking asylum have been immediately sent to Mexico.
“It might be a crisis, but I think it’s more manageable than people suspect,” El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said at a County Commissioners Court meeting.
Confusion reigns on the border ahead of Title 42's end
Migrants have been lining up at border crossings in Mexico all week, preparing to claim asylum as soon as Title 42 lifts. And thousands of people — mostly from Central and South America — have sought asylum in Brownsville and other border cities in recent weeks, with more expected.
Priscilla Orta, an attorney with Lawyers for Good Government’s Project Corazon, said confusion leading up to Thursday has been heightened by a turf war being waged by the cartels in Matamoros and other Mexican border towns.
“Things are extremely volatile in (the state of) Tamaulipas right now," she said. "And that volatility in conjunction with the lack of planning and the sheer chaos that the United States government is setting up could lead to some very tense and unexpected days.”
Orta said attorneys and aid workers will adjust to working with any new policy the Biden administration unveils to manage asylum-seekers.