Migrants amassed in Mexico are desperate for relief and say they have been waiting patiently, but now plan to cross into the US illegally now that Title 42 has been extended.
In the border city of Juarez, asylum seekers say they have risked everything and spent every penny they have to get to the US. One woman showed The Post wounds on her feet from walking hundreds of miles to the border and a man showed a monkey bite sustained during his perilous journey through the dangerous jungles in Central America to get to the border.
They are among the 20,000 people the mayor of neighboring El Paso says are waiting to come over into his city when Title 42 ends. The pandemic-era policy has been in place since 2020 and allows people from certain countries to automatically be turned back by border agents and sent to Mexico or their country of origin.
Throughout 2022, Venezuelans fleeing from its deteriorating economy and failing leaders have flooded over US borders and been allowed to stay and seek asylum if they have a valid claim.
Then Mexico agreed to take Venezuelan migrants expelled from the US in October and it was added to the list of Title 42 countries. Since then, its citizens were made to wait in Mexico. As news of the decision to keep Title 42 spread on Tuesday, Venezuelans in Juarez gathered to discuss what it meant for them.
“I want to do things legally; they owe us the right to at least ask for asylum,” said Carlos Mojollon, speaking about the US government.
The Venezuelan mechanical engineer hopes to seek a permit to work in Mexico while he waits out Title 42, but he was in the minority.
Luz Moztardo, 25, arrived in Juarez five days ago with her husband and two small children aged 1 and 3. They, too, were waiting for Title 42 to expire and turn themselves in to border officials. They checked out of their hotel Tuesday morning, hoping they would be in El Paso by nightfall.
With two small children, Moztardo said they would enter illegally if they had to and talked of her hopes to make it to New York City where friends are waiting for them.
The amount of children fleeing Venezuela underscores the humanitarian crisis on the border, as toddlers live off donated food and sleep outside in freezing temperatures.
Once people turn to illegal methods, they usually rely on cartel-linked smugglers to sneak them into the country, which can be incredibly dangerous and involve significant risk – such as having to run across six-lane highways, or suffocating in trucks stuffed with other stowaways. It can cause also migrants to become indebted to the cartels and forced into lives of sex work, being used as drug mules or other crimes.
Title 42 has been used in millions of cases, and in fiscal year 2022 alone was used to keep out around 40% of the 2.4 million people who attempted to cross the border. It was ordered to expire on Dec 21 by a Federal judge and authorities on both sides of the border prepared for this by drafting in extra troops and border agents, but last-minute appeals led to the policy being kept in place until at least February.
The Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the US Border Patrol, minced no words Tuesday night about who it believes must fix the border crisis.
“We will continue to manage the border, but we do so within the constraints of a decades-old immigration system that everyone agrees is broken. We need Congress to pass the comprehensive immigration reform legislation President Biden proposed the day he took office,” the agency said in a statement.