Ciudad Juarez, Mexico/Washington, D.C. 20 (Reuters) – When Vladimir Castellanos learned that the COVID-19 restrictions barring him and other migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico would not be lifted this week, he said he felt cheated.
Castellanos and his brother are Venezuelan, and they were among dozens of migrants who gathered on both sides of the Rio Grande Monday night, lighting a few small fires to keep warm as temperatures dipped toward freezing in Ciudad Juarez, Texas, and El Paso, Texas. .
He had traveled there in anticipation that the US court-ordered COVID-19 restrictions, known as Title 42, would be lifted on Wednesday. Title 42 allows US officials to quickly deport immigrants to Mexico and other countries without the opportunity to seek US asylum.
But in a last-minute move, the US Supreme Court on Monday allowed Title 42 to remain in place temporarily while a Republican legal challenge seeking to extend the measures is decided.
“I see it as a joke, to reassure us and then, like a child, trick us and tell us they’re going to postpone,” Castellanos said, adding that it’s unfair for immigrants from other countries to enter the United States. Venezuelans are restricted.
Under Title 42, the United States can generally deport only immigrants to Mexico from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Venezuela. Mexico does not accept Nicaraguans, for example, or immigrants from certain South American countries, who are usually allowed to pursue their immigration cases in the United States.
Since Biden took office in January 2021, half of the record 4 million migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border have been deported under Title 42, and the other half have been allowed into the country.
The increase in people crossing the border has overwhelmed some border communities. The city of El Paso, Texas, declared a state of emergency over the weekend as hundreds of migrants took to the streets.
The migrants interviewed by Reuters are estimated to be in the tens of thousands waiting for a chance to cross on the Mexican side of the border.
Early Tuesday morning, dozens of Texas National Guard troops in camouflage uniforms and helmets rolled into the border between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso in armored cars. The troops, part of a larger deployment of 400 personnel, unspooled long concertina wire to create a barrier alongside the river.
Title 42 was originally issued in March 2020 under former Republican President Donald Trump at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration of US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, left it in place for more than a year before expanding the expulsion of Venezuelans to Mexico in October and allowing 24,000 Venezuelans to enter the United States by plane if they apply. from abroad.
Still, the Biden administration says Title 42 should end after U.S. health officials said in April that the order was no longer needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
A federal judge ruled Title 42 unconstitutional in November and ordered its removal on Dec. 21, in favor of asylum-seeking immigrants who sued the government over the policy.
But a group of 19 states with Republican attorneys general tried to intervene in the case, challenging the law to keep Title 42 in place. The US Supreme Court said on Monday that the sanctions should remain in place for the time being and asked the parties to submit responses to the states’ challenge by 5 pm EST (2200 GMT) on Tuesday.
Some Venezuelans on the Mexican side of the border still hold out hope for change.
“I can’t give up that easily,” said Alexis Farfan, a 26-year-old Venezuelan immigrant who has been staying at an LGBTQI+ shelter in Tijuana since being deported from the US earlier this month. “I trust God that I will go to the other side.”
Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Ted Hesson in Washington; Additional reporting by Jackie Botts in Oaxaca City, Mexico; Editing by Micah Rosenberg and Aurora Ellis
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