EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Fewer migrants are turning themselves in at the border since the end of Title 42 expulsions on May 11.
Federal officials are telling News Nation they apprehended only 4,000 migrants on Monday. That compares to 10,000 almost a week ago.
But El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego says local government officials shouldn’t let their guard down just because the numbers have dropped.
“Things can change quickly, and we’ll need to decompress. We scale up and down – no closing of any of the services because that’s when we caught flat-footed and then it’s really hard to mobilize quickly again,” Samaniego told Border Report on Tuesday.
Government officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border say asylum-seekers who planned to cross the Rio Grande on May 12 and turn themselves in now are thinking things over. That’s because of a more Title 8 processing policy that replaced Title 42 expulsions last week. Title 8 includes the loss of future immigration benefits for five years and jail time for migrants who are deported and are caught crossing the border again.
“They’re being very prudent. They don’t want to take any chance of losing their status. If they come in and they get deported, they can’t come back in for five years,” Samaniego said. “Migrants want to come to the U.S. and don’t want to risk losing that. Title 8 is much more restrictive than Title 42 and that’s why we’re seeing a slowdown.”
Samaniego said he’s urging City of El Paso officials to stay the course despite the local numbers. The city’s migrant dashboard website, which uses U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, was reporting 626 migrant apprehensions on Monday, compared to the previous average of 1,300 per day.
“We’re sending the message to the city, make sure you don’t decide to close down one of the schools because the numbers have gone down, because it’s going to take time to open one of the schools. I think everything should stay status quo,” he said.
CBP processing centers full
Samaniego says he’s been in constant communication with CBP and Mexican government partners in anticipation of the switch from Title 42 expulsions to Title 8 deportations.
The city’s migrant dashboard shows that almost 5,000 migrants remain in CBP custody in the El Paso area. The county judge says he’s aware those holding facilities are over capacity. That has to do with Title 8 processing taking a lot longer than Title 42 expulsions, which he said sometimes took CBP agents just minutes to effect.
Those migrants that are being released from federal custody with a notice to appear in court are able to travel outside El Paso. Samaniego said the county’s migrant assistance center is seeing from 500 to 600 people come in daily to finalize travel plans.
The center can serve up to 1,200 people but so far is nowhere close to those numbers.
Federal and local officials were preparing for an unprecedented number of migrants to come over from Mexico on May 12, but the opposite happened.
Immigration advocates tell Border Report that is because migrants realized that Title 8 came with penalties, and the Department of Homeland Security communicated those consequences clearly this time around.
Samaniego said the surge did happen, but it consisted of migrants trying to come in at the last minute before Title 42 expired.
Across the border in Juarez, few migrants can be seen on the streets now and the camp next to City Hall is now down from a peak of 120 to a couple of dozen tents.
Chihuahua Population Council Director Enrique Valenzuela coincided with Samaniego about the rush to beat the Title 42 deadline. He said Juarez has fewer migrants now.
“We see fewer people arriving, we see fewer people on the streets, we see fewer people on the shelters,” Valenzuela said. “From 2,700 people that were in shelters five weeks ago, we now have an estimated 1,600.”
That doesn’t include migrants who rent space in Juarez residents’ homes, a practice that started with the fall 2018 migrant surge.