Title 42: Confusion and fear at US border as law change looms

May 10, 2023  -BBC News –As the hours count down to a dramatic shift in US immigration policy and an expected surge of migrants at the southern border, those already waiting to enter from Mexico are increasingly desperate.

Beneath an unrelenting sun, hundreds of people are standing in a dry and dusty wasteland. Waiting.

Hungry and thirsty, exhausted and frightened, they have all gathered right beside the huge steel border fence that separates them from the United States. They can see through it, to the place they have sacrificed so much to try to reach.

But no-one knows if they will be allowed across that border.

Rosario Medina says that to find food for her grandchildren she has been sifting through dumpsters, and even gathering water for the babies bottles from the polluted Rio Grande river.

No wonder tears roll down her face as she describes trying to survive here for the past eight days, as the children’s lips blister in the su

To meet these people, I first had to step across that stinking river and then crawl in the dirt through a small gap in the razor wire fence. I then heard the stories of the frightening journeys many of these people had endured.

MiLexi Gomez told me about travelling from Venezuela, taking her four young children through unmarked jungle, carrying them up mountains and then having to jump on top of trains when they could not afford to buy tickets. Now they are all having to sleep in the dirt, she fears the colds her twin boys are suffering could turn to bronchitis.

“We are feeling desperate” she says. “We can’t sleep at night because it’s too cold. We don’t have money to eat, we have no way to wash. I ask God what I should do to protect my children in this place”.

These scenes are highly unusual. Normally migrants seeking to enter America would be housed in shelters in downtown Juarez. But the numbers that have gathered in recent days have overwhelmed the system. Officials who have worked along the border for decades say they have never seen anything like it.

Most of the people I spoke to had an idea that the rules governing entry to the US are changing this week. But there was widespread misinformation and confusion about what that will mean for migrants like them.

Many believe that as soon as Title 42 – the Covid-era policy that made it easier to send migrants and asylum seekers back across the border – is lifted, then entry into the US will be much easier. That is one reason why such huge numbers of people have gathered at the border.

Others rushed to get here as they think that they must attempt entry before midnight on Thursday.

  • El Paso braces for worst as Title 42 deadline looms
  • What happens when Title 42 is lifted at the border?

MiLexi says she had heard on the news that she had to arrive before the 11 May to stand a chance of getting in. She is worried that with so many other people also gathered here her family might not make it across the border in time.

“We are very worried because we have already sacrificed so much,” she told me. “If we can’t get into America, I don’t know where we will go as we can’t go back to my country. That’s the truth.”

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