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Scenes from the US-Mexico border amid expiration of Title 42


Associated Press

From the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to San Diego and Tijuana, many migrants gathered along some sections of the U.S.-Mexico border were left questioning when or whether they would cross into the United States to seek asylum once pandemic-related restrictions known as Title 42 ended.

Some migrants who had traveled from Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Central America feared that it could be harder for them to stay on U.S. soil with the restrictions lifted.

Here are some of the stories from along the 1,950-mile (3,140-kilometer) international boundary:

___ Aylin Guevara, 45, hurried her steps as she walked through the scorching desert of Ciudad Juarez toward the border.

She was accompanied by her two children, ages 16 and 5, and her husband. The family fled their coastal city in Colombia after receiving death threats and hoped to seek refuge in the U.S.

After spending the previous night in a hotel, they were eager to get to the border — “to get in and go with the help of God and baby Jesus,” Guevara said.

But when they arrived with just hours to go before the end of Title 42, a U.S. immigration officer said they could not pass.

“Not anymore, it’s over,” he told them in a firm voice, instructing them to go to bridges 10 miles (16 kilometers) to their left or right.

___ María José Durán, a 24-year-old student from Venezuela, was on the verge of tears as she sat on a riverbank in Matamoros, Mexico.

Mexican immigration officials were trying to move migrants to an improvised camp and away from a spot where they could wade across the Rio Grande.

Durán said she dropped out of college when her parents could no longer afford it and set out for the U.S. with a group of friends and relatives. They crossed the treacherous Darien Gap dividing Colombia and Panama and then a half-dozen more countries before arriving at the U.S. border.

“I don’t know what to think now, having made such a difficult journey to now find ourselves with this,” she said, motioning toward the opposite shore where at least a dozen Texas state troopers with rifles stood behind concertina wire.

From the Mexico side, Texas National Guard members could be seen reinforcing another stretch of wire to keep migrants out.

Later, Durán could be seen walking along the levee with other migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande and passed the barbed wire.

___ Hundreds of migrants lined up next to the border wall in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, were still crossing over Thursday and being received by the U.S. Border Patrol in the hours before the Title 42 restrictions lifted. The numbers were notably lower than in recent days.

Ecuadorians Washington Javier Vaca and his wife, Paulina Congo, along with their two children, ages 14 and 7, knew nothing about the change in rules.

“And now will it be better or worse for us?” Congo asked. “We asked for asylum in Mexico and after four months they denied us.”

A Salvadoran man who gave his name as David moved away from the border and back into Ciudad Juarez for fear of being deported.

___ Authorities in the remote desert community of Yuma, Arizona, expressed alarm after the average daily number of migrant arrivals grew this week from 300 to 1,000.

Hundreds who entered the Yuma area by crossing the Colorado River early Thursday surrendered to border agents, who later brought adults and children to buses.

Mayor Doug Nicholls asked that the federal government declare a national disaster so that Federal Emergency Management Agency resources and National Guard troops can be rushed to his and other small border communities.

Most migrants are transported to shelters operated by nonprofit organizations farther away from the border, but border officials will release them into communities if enough transportation isn’t available. Nicholls said officials have already told him they plan to release 141 people in Yuma County on Friday.

“The question keeps coming up: ‘What now?’ I’ve been asking that question for two years, with no answers,” Nicholls said. “We are at a situation we’ve never been at before.”

___ Hundreds of migrants who waited for days for a chance to apply for asylum lined up Thursday along the towering steel bollards separating Tijuana from San Diego.

At one point a U.S. Border Patrol agent bent over and talked to a woman who fainted on the dusty ground.

Others chose not not to crowd the border, instead remaining at shelters in Tijuana to wait for existing asylum appointments or trying to get them online. There were hundreds in the bright yellow buildings of the Agape Mision Mundial shelter, as more arrived at the metal gate with little more than paperwork and a few belongings.

Daisy Bucia, 37, arrived at the shelter over three months ago with her 15-year-old daughter after fleeing Mexico’s Michoacan state due to death threats she received. The two were waiting to take a bus to the inland city of Mexicali on Saturday for an asylum appointment across the border in Calexico, California.

___ Leaders of nonprofit organizations that assist asylum seekers away from the border in Arizona say they are as ready as possible for the new scenario.

“We’ll put our best foot forward and approach this with every resource available,” said Teresa Cavendish, executive director of the Tucson shelter Casa Alitas, the state’s largest. “But it may not be enough.”

Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona runs Casa Alitas’ new 300-bed facility for men, as well as four other locations that also temporarily house women, families and vulnerable people for a combined capacity of over 1,000 beds.

David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, who visited the organization’s Welcome Center in Phoenix this week, expressed confidence in the agency’s ability to handle any increase in asylum seekers there. The 340-bed shelter was at less than half capacity.

“The challenge can be managed as long as it is done in an organized and humane manner,” Miliband said.

Beth Strano, engagement manger for the center in a quiet south Phoenix neighborhood, said: “We served 50,000 people last year and 38,000 people the year before that without any negative impact to our clients or community.”

___ Smugglers helped Guatemalan Sheidi Mazariegos and her 4-year-old son get to Matamoros, Mexico, where she and the child crossed the Rio Grande on a raft.

But Border Patrol agents took the pair into custody a week ago near Brownville, Texas. On Thursday, the 26-year-old and her son arrived back in Guatemala on one of two flights carrying a total of 387 migrants.

“I heard on the news that there was an opportunity to enter,” Mazariegos said. “I heard it on the radio, but it was all a lie.”

___ On a stretch of border wall in Tijuana, migrants asked passersby for blankets, food and water as the sun set over a steep hill.

Gerson Aguilera, 41, got to Tijuana around 4 p.m. with his three kids and wife to make a go at crossing and ask for asylum. From Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Aguilera said he and his family fled after organized criminals started demanding he pay twice the extortion money he was already paying of 2,000 Honduran lempira (roughly $81) a week.

“It’s very hard. For a payment, they will kill you,” Aguilera said with tears in his eyes.

The owner of a welding shop, Aguilera said he left his home once before in 2020 because of threats, but returned when things calmed down. That wasn’t an option anymore.

“We ask that God helps us,” Aguilar said.


Associated Press journalists Gerardo Carrillo in Matamoros, Mexico, María Verza in Ciudad Juarez, Sonia Pérez D. in Guatemala City and Suman Naishadham in Tijuana contributed to this report. Snow reported from Phoenix.

Article Topic Follows: AP National

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