By Alejandra Arredondo
El Paso, US, Dec 21 (EFE).- The migrant situation at Mexico’s border with the United States continues to worsen while the future of the controversial Title 42 immigration policy, which allows Washington to carry out immediate deportations, remains in limbo.
Migrants who have traveled thousands of kilometers, escaped the dangers of cartels and traffickers, survived hunger and the danger-laden Darién Gap forest between South and Central America now face a tough decision – risk crossing into the US irregularly or sit tight in Mexico’s border area, where nighttime temperatures are plummeting.
The Donald Trump-era Title 42, brought to life during the Covid-19 pandemic and underpinned by emergency health measures, was due to end Wednesday after remaining in force under president Joe Biden.
The current president, a Democrat, has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss Republican appeals to keep it in place, but has petitioned for its removal to be delayed until the end of the month.
At the border, some of the migrants are desperate enough to seek out an illegal crossing, or to pay a smuggler to get them across while avoiding detection by US Border Patrol.
Salvadoran Samira (named changed on request), her two sons, aged 3 and 6, and another migrant she met in Mexico, managed to jump the border fence several days ago and has since made it to El Paso, the Texas city adjacent to Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez.
“I did it for them,” she told Efe as she sat on the sidewalk outside a migrant refuge center, her youngest child in her arms.
Samira said she previously tried to cross the border a month ago, at which time she handed herself over to Border Patrol with the intention of requesting asylum. She was deported to Mexico.
She hopes to reunite with the father of her children, who is currently in a different state, but has yet to save enough money for a bus ticket. She also fears being intercepted by authorities during the journey.
CROSSING AGAIN AND AGAIN
Title 42 has failed to stem the number of migrants arriving at the US border, which has hit record highs in recent months.
Those numbers have been inflated, however, by people like Samira who have crossed the border several times, only to be automatically deported back to Mexico.
Over 1.8 million deportations were carried out under Title 42 between 2020-21 but over half of those people had previously been intercepted and deported, according to the American Immigration Council.
“It creates an absurd situation where people try to enter many times,” Nicolás Palazzo, a lawyer at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, based in El Paso, told Efe.
“It leads to an economic boom for the smugglers.”
Some migrants turn to smugglers in a bid to make it across the border undetected.
Jenifer and Roxana (names withheld on request), both from Venezuela, failed in an attempt to cross at Piedras Negras, which borders Eagle Pass in Texas, and were sent by Mexican authorities over 1,000 kilometers to the south, in Sinaloa.
But they were undeterred from trying again, although this time they came to Ciudad Juárez, where they paid a smuggler to show them where to cross the frontier.
They were both fleeing Venezuela in fear – Roxana said she was raped and kidnapped in her native country and Jenifer said she faced extortion.
“We felt this country (the US) is safer and in Mexico we felt they were going to give us support but we didn’t feel that safe there either,” Roxana, 33, told Efe.
US politicians looking to thwart migrant arrivals underestimate the driving factors behind it, said Palazzo.
“They don’t understand how desperate people are to enter. Even knowing there is a policy of deportation, knowing the risk and the dangers of crossing like they do, people keep doing it,” the lawyer added.
The US Supreme Court on Monday ruled to keep Title 42 in place while a lower court mulls an appeal asking Biden to suspend the policy. EFE