Chaos on Mexico Border Averted, for Now, as US Turns Page in Migration Rules

EL PASO (Texas) (AP). The U.S. has ended the pandemic era of immigration restrictions at its border with Mexico. Migrants have adapted to the strict new rules aimed in discouraging illegal cross-borders, and are waiting for the promise of legal entry pathways.

On Friday, a day after Title 42 was lifted, government officials and migrants were still evaluating the effects of the switch to the new regulations adopted by the Biden administration. The goal is to stabilize the Southwest border area and reduce the number of smugglers that charge migrants for their journey.

Asylum seekers in the U.S. are now effectively barred if they have not applied online for protection or sought it in the country they passed through. As immigration cases move forward, families will be subject to GPS tracking and curfews. Expelled Americans can be banned from entering the U.S. for up to five years, and they may face criminal prosecution.

Many migrants in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico watched their phones in the hope of getting an appointment to apply for entry. This week, the official app for registering to enter the U.S. was updated to offer appointments to migrants who wish to enter via land crossings.

Many migrants in the northern part of Mexico have resigned themselves, rather than crossing the border without permission, to waiting for an appointment.

Yeremy Depablos (21), a Venezuelan who is traveling with seven cousins and has been waiting for Ciudad Juarez to open up, said: "I hope that it will be a bit better, and the appointments will be streamlined a bit more." Depablos, who feared deportation and did not want to enter illegally, was afraid of being sent back. We have to do it legally.

Homeland Security Department of the United States. Homeland Security Department has said that it has not seen any significant increase in immigration.

In southern Mexico, however, a large number of migrants, including children, still crowded the railways in Huehuetoca, on Friday. They were desperate to board freight trains headed north towards the U.S.

The Biden administration has a legal pathway that allows up to 30,000 people per month to enter from Haiti, Cuba and Venezuela if they submit an online application with a sponsoring financial institution and enter via airport.

Around 100 processing centres are opening in Guatemala and Colombia for migrants who want to apply to move to the U.S. or Spain. If they book an appointment through the app, up to 1,000 migrants can enter Mexico via land crossings every day.

The system, if it is successful, could change the way migrants arrive at the southern border. Biden is facing a barrage of criticism, both from Republicans and migrant activists, who accuse him of being soft on border security. The new asylum restrictions are already facing two legal challenges.

Title 42, which was implemented in March 2020, allowed border officials the ability to return asylum seekers quickly over the border if they were preventing COVID-19 from spreading. The restrictions are now lifted, as the official national emergency is over.

Title 42 did not carry the same legal penalties for expulsion as those new rules.

On Friday in El Paso, a few dozen migrant lingered on the streets of El Paso, where almost 2,000 migrants camped just two days ago.

The Rev. Daniel Mora stated that most migrants took notice of flyers issued by U.S. Immigration authorities offering a "last chance" to submit themselves to processing, and they left. El Paso mayor Oscar Leeser reported that 1,800 migrants handed themselves in to Customs and Border Protection last Thursday.

Melissa Lopez, Executive Director for Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services in El Paso said that many migrants are willing to follow the legal path created by the federal Government, but they also fear deportation and criminal penalties if they cross the border illegally.

In the lead-up to Title 42 expiring, border holding facilities in the U.S. had already reached capacity.

In Florida, an appointed federal judge by the former president Donald Trump temporarily stopped the plans of the administration to release immigrants into the U.S.

Customs and Border Protection stated that it would comply with the ruling, but referred to it as a "harmful decision" which will lead to unsafe overcrowding at migrant detention and processing facilities.

The court has scheduled a date to decide whether the decision will be extended.

Migrant rights groups have also sued the Biden Administration on the grounds that their new policy is the same as the one Trump adopted -- and was rejected by the court.

The Biden Administration says that its policy is unique, arguing it's not a ban outright but that it imposes a greater burden of proof in order to obtain asylum and that restrictions are paired with newly opened legal paths.

On Friday at the Chaparral Port of Entry in Tijuana, some migrants approached U.S. officials after they were unable to access the app for appointment. Jairo, a Salvadoran named, told U.S. authorities that he had fled death threats at home.

Jairo, who refused to give his last name and was traveling with his partner as well as their 3-year-old child said: "We are really afraid." We can't stay in Mexico any longer and we can’t return to Guatemala or El Salvador. We hope that if the U.S. cannot take us, they will direct us to a country who can.

Gonzalez reported from Brownsville in Texas. Spagat reported from Tijuana in Mexico. This report was contributed by Associated Press reporters Colleen and Rebecca Santana from Washington, Gisela Salamon in Miami, Christopher Sherman in Mexico City, Maria Verza in Ciudad Juarez Mexico, Julie Watson in Tijuana and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe.