McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — South Texas border leaders expressed concerns on Friday that Title 42 was being lifted by the Biden administration at the end of May, while migrant advocacy groups said the decision was long overdue.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo who represents South Texas, told Border Report that upwards of 10,000 migrants “have been staged across the border” from South Texas in Reynosa, Mexico, by criminal drug organizations who are waiting for Title 42 to be lifted.

At least 10,000 migrants also are waiting in Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas.

Once May 23 arrives, Cuellar believes they will all try to come across to the United States to claim asylum. And he worries that Border Patrol agents will be “over run and overwhelmed,” he said via Zoom.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-TX (Cuellar Photo)

Cuellar, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Committee, says the Biden administration should have listened to concerns by border communities as well as border law enforcement before announcing on Friday plans to end the order.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, who represents McAllen, also said the Biden administration should “re-think” its decision.

“Until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides border communities and local Customs and Border Patrol sectors adequate resources and a plan, we will once again be wholly unprepared to handle a surge in irregular migration at our Southern Border in a humane, safe and orderly way,” Gonzalez said.

“There are already people staging across the river and the criminal organizations are going to market, are going to sell this as a tool to get more people in,” Cuellar said. “We have still got issues with the pandemic. So why are we getting rid of Title 42?”

Title 42 is a public health rule implemented by the Trump administration in March 2020 under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent cross-border spread of coronavirus.

Migrant advocates say it was unfairly used to send migrants back across the border in busloads and vans very quickly without the chance to tell immigration officials of their fears of returning, or without concern by the United States for their welfare. And they claim migrant communities wanted it to end.

“The ending of the evil policy known as Title 42 is a welcomed victory fought for by the relentless organizing of immigrant communities,” said Cynthia Garcia, national campaigns manager for United We Dream.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrest adult migrants on June 24, 2021, in Hidalgo, Texas, just blocks from the Rio Grande. Most single adult migrants arrested since March 2020 have been expelled back to Mexico under Title 42. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“Ending Title 42 is not ‘open borders’ – it is a regular order where people have the right to ask for asylum,” said Tyler Moran, former deputy assistant to the President and senior advisor on migration. “Those who request asylum will be processed into the country so they can pursue their case; those who don’t request asylum or who lose their case will be removed.

“This is a really important and historic day. It is a return to American values. It’s a return to the American promise and taking us further away from the Trump family separation policy doctrine to an immigration agenda that’s rooted in fairness, humanity and, importantly, functionality,” said Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub. “This is about a return to normalcy. Just as our country is returning to normal from the pandemic, as masks are going away, as businesses are opening back up, we must ensure a return to a fair asylum system. That means that you’re able to actually apply for asylum as is provided for by international and national law.”

“President Biden made the morally and legally right – and politically popular – decision to end Title 42, a cruel and harmful vestige of the Trump era. We commend the Biden administration for moving to repeal this deadly and xenophobic policy. It is a significant step forward, even if it is long overdue,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund.

And while his other South Texas congressional colleagues were against the decision, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio, applauded it.

“Bringing Title 42 to an end is the right decision. Over the past month, Americans have committed to welcoming families fleeing from brutality and war in Ukraine. That generosity was a fulfillment of our nation’s promise to be a beacon of freedom to the world, and I commend the Biden administration’s realization that maintaining Title 42 is untenable. Every asylum-seeker deserves to have their case considered in a manner consistent with U.S. and international law,” Castro said.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is seen May 7, 2021, visiting a U.S. Customs and Border Processing facility in Donna, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

In announcing Friday the end of Title 42, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the United States will increase COVID-19 vaccinations that are available to migrants.

And he emphasized that after May 23, migrants who do not qualify for asylum, still can be expelled under Title 8.

The ACLU of Texas said over one million people were sent back under Title 42, many Brown and Black.

“We welcome the CDC’s long overdue decision to terminate this order, and look forward to the permanent end to this Trump-era policy, which the Biden administration has disturbingly used to harm well over a million people, especially people of color,” said Shaw Drake, Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel for Border and Immigrants’ Rights at the ACLU of Texas.

CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres said the Biden administration and Congress must find a way to come up with meaningful immigration reforms and new policies..

“This means creating a fair, humane, and anti-racist immigration system that keeps people safe and families together. ICE detention centers must be closed down, and digital surveillance must end. Immigrants must be welcomed and provided with the resources they need including legal counsel,” Torres said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Dec. 18, 2021, shows off a border wall that the State of Texas is building in rural Starr County to keep out migrants. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decried Friday’s announcement saying “President Biden’s open-border policies are an unmitigated disaster for national security. His recklessness has forced the State of Texas to take unprecedented steps to fill the gaps.”

This includes the state building its own border wall in rural Starr County that is nearly 1.7 miles long, as well as surging 10,000 National Guard troops to the border under Operation Lone Star.

The state also is charging migrants who cross with criminal trespass.

“President Biden has chosen to jeopardize the safety and security of those very Americans he swore to protect and defend by ending Title 42 expulsions,” Abbott said.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com