EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – One of the largest migrant advocacy agencies here says it’s ready to cope with the end of a policy that has kept asylum-seekers at bay for the past two years.
National news reports out of Washington, D.C., say the Biden administration is expected to terminate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 public health order on May 23. The order was supposed to prevent the cross-border spread of COVID-19 by closing ports of entry to asylum-seekers and quickly expelling newly arrived migrants deemed inadmissible.
Republican lawmakers say this will encourage more unauthorized migration, but advocates say seeking asylum in the U.S. is not against the law.
“I’m glad to hear asylum-seekers are going to be able to access the system, especially because they’re fleeing violence in their countries. It’s necessary for them to have a system they can access in order to be safe and be able to support their families and resettle in the United States,” said Melissa A. Lopez, executive director of Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services.
DMRS every year assists 25,000 clients seeking immigration benefits for themselves and family members. One year, its workload spiked to 36,000 and they were able to handle it.
“The immigration system has had much larger numbers of people seeking services in the past and has been able to handle those individuals in a way that is required by law, that ensures due process and respect of human rights,” Lopez said. “The system has the capacity to receive and process more individuals.”
More than 2 million migrants came across the border in 2021, but at least half were expelled under Title 42. Once that’s gone, each migrant would have to be ruled inadmissible under federal statutes before expelled.
In El Paso, the migrant surges of the past few years have strengthened relationships between nonprofits and others that provide immigration services.
“We learned so many lessons over the course of those years and really started to collaborate and regularly work with each other to the point that if one of us is unable to meet the need, someone else can,” she said. “I’m really proud of our advocacy network and I’m confident we will do what we need to do to serve whoever needs our help.”
Lopez also believes the federal government has the capacity to process a large number of incoming migrants.
“I would argue border (enforcement) infrastructure – U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – are larger than they’ve ever been. I think there are plenty of resources available to the government to properly process as many people as they need who will be seeking benefits in the United States,” she said.