Thousands of migrants are illegally crossing into the United States this week before a new regulation takes effect that could bar most who cross illegally from seeking asylum, while others gathered on the Mexico side amid confusion about U.S. policy.
The U.S. rolled out a regulation on Wednesday that presumes most migrants are ineligible for asylum if they passed through other nations without seeking protection elsewhere first, or if they failed to use legal pathways for U.S. entry.
The new rule is a key part of President Joe Biden’s border enforcement plan as COVID-19 restrictions – known as Title 42 – are set to end just before midnight on Thursday. Under Title 42, which has been in place since March 2020, many border crossers were rapidly expelled to Mexico without a chance to seek asylum, leading to repeat attempts.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the new rule would mean harsher consequences for the thousands of migrants crossing illegally. If caught, they could be deported and barred from the United States for five years if they do not qualify for asylum.
“We are making it very clear that our border is not open, that crossing irregularly is against the law and that those who are not eligible for relief will be quickly returned,” Mayorkas said at a press conference in Washington.
Thousands of Migrants Attracted Then Dumped
Migrants have been amassing in Mexico near various parts of the border – many of them unsure about when, or how, to cross. Drone footage showed large crowds gathering at the border fence by El Paso, Texas, across from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
U.S. cities are expecting to receive some of those migrants after they cross the border. New York City said it is already receiving 500 per day and expects the number to increase after Title 42 expires on Thursday, leading Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday to issue an executive order temporarily suspending a policy guaranteeing shelter for all those in need.
New York Is Full
“We have reached our limit,” spokesperson Fabien Levy said in a statement. “This is not a decision taken lightly and we will make every effort to get asylum seekers into shelter as quickly as possible.”
More than 10,000 migrants were caught crossing at the U.S.-Mexico border illegally each day on Monday and Tuesday, said Brandon Judd, president of a union for Border Patrol agents. The total number of arrests in April was more than five million, the highest number of arrests in decades.
Some 660,000 migrants were waiting in Mexico this month, most likely poised to cross into the United States in the coming days and weeks. More are making their way north through Central America, according to a recent Homeland Security intelligence analysis obtained by The New York Times.
The border and the U.S. immigration system are not equipped to manage so many people. But crossing into the United States illegally has become, for many, the only option as fewer legal ways exist.
Old Immigration Laws
Immigration laws are outdated. The most recent major U.S. laws for refugees, asylum seekers and immigration enforcement date to the 1980s and ’90s. None have been significantly updated to adapt to modern challenges.
Violence broke out at a crossing between Reynosa, Mexico and Pharr, Texas on Wednesday morning as Mexican soldiers clashed with an armed group of suspected people smugglers, killing three, officials in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas said.
At a towering wall dividing San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, hundreds, perhaps thousands of migrants jumped across in recent days, waiting to turn themselves in to U.S. agents.
The political fallout from the end of Title 42 and the surge in illegal immigration is becoming increasingly fraught. Critics of the Biden administration argue that the new policy is a clear invitation for illegal immigration, while supporters contend the administration is merely trying to adhere to international asylum laws and human rights standards. The issue has become a political football, with both sides using it to score points and further their respective agendas.
Republicans seized on the crisis, arguing that the Biden administration’s policies are responsible for the surge in illegal border crossings. They point to the end of Title 42 as a clear example of the administration’s failure to enforce border security. They argue that the new rule, which presumes most migrants are ineligible for asylum if they passed through other nations without seeking protection elsewhere first, is too lenient and will only encourage more illegal immigration.
Democrats, on the other hand, argue the surge in illegal immigration is a humanitarian crisis that requires a compassionate response. They contend the Trump administration’s use of Title 42 was inhumane and violated international asylum laws. They argue that the Biden administration’s new rule is a necessary step towards restoring the United States’ reputation as a nation that welcomes refugees and asylum seekers.
The political mess is shown by the fact that U.S. cities are not equipped to handle an influx of thousands of migrants. The strain on resources even in democrat-run cities that say they support more immigration, created tension between local, state, and federal authorities. This is evident in New York City, where Mayor Eric Adams temporarily suspended a policy guaranteeing shelter for all those in need due to the overwhelming number of migrants arriving in the city.
The situation is a stark reminder of the urgent need for immigration laws to be reviewed and existing laws enforced. The current system is clearly not equipped to handle the modern challenges of migration.
The political polarization surrounding the issue makes it difficult to find a solution that both sides can agree on. Republicans say Democrats are only interested in importing more democrat voters. As the debate rages on, thousands of migrants continue to make the perilous journey to the United States, hoping for a better life.