Pandemic-related asylum restrictions known as Title 42 are expiring, straining the US immigration system (2023)

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Asylum restrictions linked to the pandemic, which had expelled millions of migrants, were lifted early Friday. This threatened to put historic pressure on the country's struggling immigration system as migrants rushed to enter the US before new restrictions took effect.

Meanwhile, the government suffered a potentially serious legal setback when a federal judge temporarily blocked its attempt to release migrants more quicklyborder guardThe stations are full.

Migrants, including children, have walked along a US border fenced with barbed wire and secured by troops in northern Mexico, unsure of where to go or what to do. Others settled in shelters to secure an asylum deal, which can take months to arrange online.

The expiring rules, known as Title 42, have been in effect since March 2020. They allow border officials to quickly send asylum seekers back across the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

US authorities have unveiled tough new measures to crack down on illegal border crossings while providing legal opportunities for migrants to apply online, find a sponsor and undergo background checks. If successful, the reforms could fundamentally change the way migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border.


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Many migrants were aware of upcoming policy changes aimed at stopping illegal border crossings and encouraging asylum seekers to apply online and consider alternative destinations such as Canada or Spain.

"I don't know what's going to happen," said Jhoan Daniel Barrios, a former Venezuelan military police officer, as he and two friends walked along the border opposite Ciudad JuarezTrin, Texas, looking for an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.

"We're short of money, we're short of food, we're out of shelter, the cartel is after us," said Barrios, whose wife was in U.S. custody. "What are we going to do? Wait until they kill us?"

Last week, Barrios and his friends entered the United States and were deported. They had little hope of a different result on Thursday.

On the American side of the river, many turned themselves in immediately, hoping for release while pursuing their cases in overcrowded immigration courts that took years.

It was not clear how many migrants were on their way and how long the increase would continue. Flows appeared to ease in some places on Thursday night, but it was not clear why and whether crossings would pick up again once the coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted.

A US official reported that border police stopped about 10,000 migrants on Tuesday - nearly double the number in March and just below the 11,000 figure that authorities say is the upper limit of what they will be after Title 42 ends.

More than 27,000 people were in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection, the official said.

"Our buses are full. Our planes are full," said Pedro Cardenas, a city commissioner in Brownsville, Texas, north of Matamoros, as the new arrivals flew to locations across the United States.

The new guidelines tackle illegal border crossings while creating legal options for migrants to apply online, find a sponsor and undergo background checks. If successful, the reforms could fundamentally change the way migrants arrive at the US-Mexico border.

However, it will take time before the results show. Biden has acknowledged that the border will be chaotic for a while. Immigrant groups have threatened legal action. And migrants fleeing poverty, gangs and persecution in their home countries are still desperate to reach American soil at any cost.

Aware of the upcoming policy changes, many migrants on Thursday were looking for a way to turn to US immigration officials before 1 p.m. 11:59 a.m. EDT deadline.

While Title 42 discouraged many from seeking asylum, it had no legal consequences and encouraged retrying. After Thursday, migrants face a five-year ban from entering the United States and possible criminal prosecution.

Detention centers along the border were already well over capacity. But late Thursday, U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell, appointed by President Donald Trump, halted the administration's plan to begin releasing migrants by requiring them to report to an immigration officer within 60 days if reception centers reach 125% of capacity. or when people are present for an average of 60 hours. Fast-track releases should also be triggered if authorities stop 7,000 migrants along the border in one day.

The state of Florida argued that the government's plan was nearly identical to another Biden policy that had previously been invalidated in federal court. Earlier Thursday dMinistry of Justicesaid his new move was in response to an emergency situation and prevented it from continuing "could overwhelm the border and pose serious health and safety risks to non-citizens and immigration officials."

Weatherell blocked the releases for two weeks and scheduled a hearing on May 19 on whether to extend his order.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has warned that Border Patrol facilities will be even more crowded.

"I can't stress enough the strain on our staff and facilities," he told reporters Thursday.

As the migrants tried to reach US soil before the rules expired, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the smugglers were sending a different message. He noted an increase in smugglers on his country's southern border offering to take migrants into the United States and told them the border would be open from Thursday.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security announced a rule that would make it extremely difficult for anyone who is in transit through another country, such as Mexico, or who has not submitted an online application, to qualify for asylum. It also imposed curfews with GPS tracking for families released before the first asylum claims in the US.

The government says it is stepping up the deportation of migrants ineligible to stay in the United States on flights that carried nearly 400 migrants from the United States to Guatemala on Thursday.

Among them was Sheidi Mazariegos, 26, who arrived near Brownsville with her four-year-old son just eight days after her arrest.

"I heard on the news that there was a way in, I heard it on the radio, but it was all a lie," she said. Smugglers brought them to Matamoros and put the two on a raft. They were quickly arrested by border guards.

Mazariegos said she made the trip because she was poor and hoped to be reunited with her sisters who live in the United States.

At the same time, the government has introduced far-reaching new legal routes into the United States.

Up to 30,000 people from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela can enter the country each month if they apply online to a financial sponsor and enter through an airport. Processing centers open in Guatemala, Colombia and elsewhere. Up to 1,000 people can enter Mexico daily via land crossings if they secure an appointment through an online app.

In shelters in northern Mexico, many migrants chose not to rush to the border, waiting for existing asylum deals or hoping to make an appointment online.

Hundreds of migrants waited at the Ágape Misión Mundial animal shelter in Tijuana. Daisy Bucia, 37, and her 15-year-old daughter arrived at the shelter from Mexico's Michoacán state more than three months ago - fleeing death threats - and have an asylum deal in California on Saturday.

Bucia read on social media that pandemic-era restrictions ended at the US-Mexico border, but preferred to cross the border safely later.

"What people want more than anything is to confuse you," Bucia said.


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Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Rebecca Santana in Washington; Christopher Sherman in Mexico City; Gerardo Carrillo in Matamoros, Mexico; Maria Verza in Juarez City, Mexico; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Giovanna Dell'Orto in El Paso; and Elliot Spagat in Tijuana, Mexico contributed to this report.

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