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Title 42 expires quietly

CBP Officers stand near a barricade on Paso del Norte Bridge the night Title 42 expires.
Angela Kocherga
A group of U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers stand near a barricade set up in the middle of the the Paso del Norte bridge, the international boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. A large force was on duty the night Title 42 expired May 11th.

CIUDAD JUAREZ – Most of those watching the large digital clock above the Paso del Norte international bridge, were local residents. But one family was counting the minutes. As soon as Title 42 expired the man, woman and boy wearing a baseball cap walked to the top of the bridge and asked for asylum.

They were the first family to seek asylum at the bridge following the end of the pandemic health order.

Despite concerns about a large influx and talk of “chaos” on the border, the pandemic health order ended quietly in El Paso and Juarez, a region that has been the site of a humanitarian crisis for the past few years.

The crowd of migrants that used to gather at the Paso del Norte Bridge looking toward their ultimate destination, the U.S. was gone. For more than three years people migrating to border had repeatedly been turned away if they tried to ask for asylum at this port of entry. Others had been walked back across the very same bridge after being expelled under the pandemic health order imposed in March of 2020.

“Do you have an appointment with the CBP One,” a CBP officer asked the family.

The father looked confused. The CBP One App is now the primary method for setting up an appointment with an asylum officer.

The family said they were from Peru. After a brief exchange, they were allowed to proceed to the building ahead where people present immigration documents. Once inside officer’s directed them to a waiting room and further screening.

Migrants wait at gate 42 in border fence in the final hours before Title 42 expired. Hundreds turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents at the fence so they could be processed.
Aaron Montes
Razor wire stopped people from reaching the gate where migrants were surrendering to Border Patrol so they could be processed in the final hours before Title 42 expired.

Further east along the towering border fence, hundreds of migrants were hoping to make it into the U.S. to be processed by Border Patrol agents but the clock ran out.

As Title 42 expired, members of the Texas National Guard troops and state troopers blocked their path. They strung up razor wire in front of the gate where hundreds of migrants were in a long line waited for their chance to be let in by Border Patrol agents for processing.

A man in his early 20s from Venezuelan who only wanted to be identified by Lionel, his first name, waited near the dry Rio Grande riverbed with two friends. He tried to ask a National Guard member for information about where else he could reach the Border Patrol agents.

“He told me ‘no’ and said that he didn’t speak Spanish.”

The next morning, the area where he and others had been waiting in line days was mostly empty. Now those who try to enter the country without documents, even to request asylum face a five-year ban and new rules require migrants to apply from abroad rather than show up at the border.