Migrants stuck in Mexico hopeful U.S. will lift Covid-era expulsion policy at border

Migrants stuck in Mexico hopeful U.S. will lift Covid-era expulsion policy at border
Migrants and activists take part in a demonstration against Title 42 in Tijuana, Mexico, 22 March 2022. Title 42 of the United States Code has a rule about migration condition which allows negation or the immediate removal to migrants who seeking protection in the US border. EPA-EFE/Joebeth Terriquez

MEXICO CITY, March 31 (Reuters) - News the United States is poised to end a pandemic-related expulsion policy at the U.S.-Mexico border has buoyed hopes across northern Mexico where thousands of migrants - including families stranded in shelters and makeshift camps - have been waiting months for a chance to seek asylum in the United States.

US health officials are set to announce plans this week to terminate the order, known as Title 42, in May, Reuters reported on Wednesday. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the order in March 2020 during the administration of former Republican President Donald Trump, an immigration hardliner.

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has kept it in place since taking office in January 2021 despite criticism from immigration advocates, health experts and members of his own party.

Title 42 allows border guards to rapidly expel most migrants caught crossing into the United States back to Mexico or other countries, often hours after their apprehension without a chance to ask for U.S. asylum, which is a right under U.S. law.

More than a million migrants have been sent back so far. Many fearing violence or persecution in their home countries have stayed in Mexico, either trying to cross again or waiting in limbo in dangerous border towns.

“It’s great news for us,” said Laura, 32, who said she fled the Mexican state of Michoacan after her 16-year-old daughter was killed.

“The same day they lift Title 42, God willing, I hope to cross,” she said declining to provide her last name because of security fears. She and her two other children, 9 and 4, have been waiting in Tijuana, Mexico to seek asylum for over a month.

Enrique Lucero, the municipal director of migrant services in Tijuana, said he estimates there are thousands of migrants in Tijuana – across from San Diego, California. Makeshift camps have also sprung up in Reynosa, Mexico across from McAllen, Texas.

Many migrants are from Mexico, South and Central America and the Caribbean but migrants from African and other nations have flocked to Mexico, as well as Ukrainians and dissident Russians fleeing war.

“This gives them hope,” said Jose Maria Garcia, the director of Tijuana’s Movimiento Juventud 2000 shelter.

Garcia and other immigrant advocates have long criticized the policy and are cheering its end. But Garcia acknowledged the decision could strain the border’s already crowded shelters if more hopeful migrants head north.

“We know that this will increase the arrival of migrants,” he said, “and most of the shelters are already at capacity.”

By Lizbeth Diaz

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey; Editing by Mica Rosenberg and Michael Perry)


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