EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – William Arturo Rodriguez did not know what to expect when he turned himself in to U.S. immigration authorities in El Paso last week.
The Venezuelan migrant admits he was afraid American authorities would deny his asylum claim based on political violence and lack of economic opportunities in Venezuela. But on Tuesday, Rodriguez milled about the sidewalks of Sacred Heart church with a notice to appear in immigration court. His only concern was how to get the rest of the money he needed for a plane ticket to an undisclosed city in Florida.
“Thank God, I got my permit. I’m proud because I achieved my objective,” Rodriguez said. “Immigration (officers) did an excellent job. The treatment was good, and they gave us the documents” allowing him to travel to the interior of the United States.
Rodriguez’s papers reflect U.S. immigration authorities processed him under Title 8 authority – a lengthy, comprehensive review of a person’s legal basis to remain in the U.S., even temporarily. Title 8 on Friday replaced the swifter, few-questions-asked Title 42 Trump-era expulsions that sent nearly 2 million people back to Mexico since 2020.
The transition from Title 42 to Title 8 sent the population at El Paso’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities to a historical high of 6,200 late last week.
But with fewer migrants crossing the border in the past few days, CBP has been able to decompress processing centers to a more manageable 4,040 people by Thursday, according to the City of El Paso’s migrant dashboard, which is based on CBP data.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said federal authorities are now spending much more time reviewing each apprehended migrant’s case before they decide if a release, a repatriation to country of origin or a return to Mexico is in order.
“There’s still a big number in detention, close to 5,000. The reason for that is now they hold them until they get processed. Before, under Title 42, it was taking them like 10 minutes to process,” Samaniego said. “That’s why we are not getting all the individuals (released) as fast.”
The county judge, who maintains constant communication with CBP, said there’s overcrowding at processing facilities.
“Their numbers are much greater than resources, that’s why it’s taking time. They’re not in the best conditions because there’s a lot of people. I’ve been there back and forth and it’s not the best place to be,” Samaniego said.
Larisa, a Guatemalan migrant released from a CBP facility this week, said saw “a lot of people” in detention during her four-day stay. But she said she had no complaints after being released on parole.
“The food was good. There was no mistreatment,” she said. “They were asking some people to sign deportation papers, but I was lucky. They took me to a room, and they told me I was still under custody, just had to sign in every month.”
Laisa on Tuesday remained at Sacred Heart church waiting to gather money for an airplane or a bus ticket to Houston. A friend is waiting for her there and she hopes to find a job.
But while the mood is now upbeat on the streets of El Paso, migrants sent back to Mexico in recent days are running out of options.
“There is no more American dream for me,” said Oscar Izaguirre Brito, a Venezuelan returned to Juarez, Mexico, late last week. “I already was in the United States. I was incarcerated with 500 other people, eating whatever they gave you – a burrito or a hamburger or water. […] If you want to cross, blessings. For me, the dream is lost.”
Johan Jose Arias, also from Venezuela, said he was sent back to Mexico with few questions asked. He doesn’t know whether he was processed under Title 42 or Title 8.
“We’re looking for a better life for our children, our families. We turned ourselves in but were sent back without an explanation. They just handcuffed you and take you back to Mexico again,” Arias said. “They didn’t tell us anything. They did not give us any hope. They did not talk to us. […] All the time they had us locked up, without being able to call our relatives.”
The migrants in Juarez said they would try to get an asylum appointment through the CBP One app despite having been expelled. None expressed a desire to return to their home countries.
“Some of us came (to the border) on top of a train. Others paid money. It is best to keep fighting for an appointment because if we just turn ourselves in (again), we run the risk of being repatriated to our country,” said Arias, who is now selling South American arepas (cornbread) and coffee on the streets of Juarez to make ends meet.