McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrant aid groups are concerned by reports that the Biden administration plans to expel to Mexico additional nationalities of asylum seekers under Title 42.

Reuters on Wednesday reported that Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians could be among migrants sent back to Mexico under Title 42, the public health policy that immediately expels asylum seekers who cross the border to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to lift Title 42 as courts consider a case brought by 19 states — including Texas — that want the Trump-era policy to remain.

In October, the Department of Homeland Security added Venezuelans to the list of asylum seekers who can be turned back under Title 42 — sending thousands south of the border to Mexico and creating camps of refugees living in tents and boxes up and down the Rio Grande.

That caused a significant drop in the number of asylum seekers legally released into migrant shelters in South Texas, where many Venezuelans typically had been helped.

Now migrant advocates fear that if these additional three nationalities are added to the expulsion list it will add to what they are calling “chaos” created by Title 42, and will result in more migrants waiting south of the border.

Over 3,000 migrants, many from Venezuela, currently are in a makeshift camp in Matamoros, Mexico, just south of Brownsville, Texas, hoping to cross the border to claim asylum if Title 42 lifts.

A Venezuelan migrant warms her hands over a campfire outside her makeshift tent refusing to be relocated to a refugee shelter, in Matamoros, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Migrants are waiting along the U.S.-Mexico border hoping Title 42 will be lifted. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

“Title 42 is an aberration in terms of border policy,” said Robyn Barnard, associate director for refugee advocacy for the nonprofit organization Human Rights First. “It’s done nothing but create chaos in terms of actual border management.”

Barnard was part of a video-conferencing call Thursday with a couple dozen migrant advocacy organizations from across the United States that are part of the Welcome With Dignity Campaign that want Title 42 to end. Many are legal aid groups that say refugees are being illegally denied their right by U.S. and international laws to cross the border and claim asylum.

“Asylum is for people who are fleeing harm and persecution. And so any program that requires a person to stay in their country past a certain date or a certain time free presumes they can stay in their country for several weeks — or months while that petition is pending in the U.S. — fundamentally fails to understand what asylum seekers are facing. They are fleeing harm and they cannot stay,” said Chelsea Sachau, an attorney for Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project, which helps asylum seekers in Arizona.

“Title 42 has forced desperate people to take extreme measures,” said Margaret Cargiolo of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.

Adding additional nationalities to those expelled under Title 42 would further compound the situation on the Southwest border, they say.

“It’s incredibly disturbing that the Biden administration is considering doubling down using Title 42 against other nationalities including Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans,” Barnard said.

“In the wake of this week’s Supreme Court decision, the Biden administration should be redoubling its efforts to end Title 42, not expanding the policy,” said Melissa Crow, director of litigation at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. “This move would go far beyond what any court has required, dispelling any pretense that this administration is interested in turning the page.”

This move would go far beyond what any court has required.”

Melissa Crow, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies

Border Report has asked the Department of Homeland Security if they plan to add these three groups to those expelled under Title 42, and if so, when. This story will be updated if the agency responds.

Over 163,000 Nicaraguans were encountered at the border in Fiscal Year 2022, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Nicaraguans were the sixth-most group to be encountered on the border, just below Venezuelans, which topped 187,000 encounters.

Cubans were the third-largest group to arrive at the border and over 220,000 were encountered in Fiscal Year 2022, CBP reports.

A white paper published last week by the National Immigration Forum reiterated the “push and pull factors” driving migrants north, which include a history of acceptance by the United States for refugees.

“The U.S. is one of the safest countries in the hemisphere and has the most robust asylum system — it stands to reason those who simply cannot find protection elsewhere would attempt the journey to the U.S. southwest border,” according to the Forum’s report, “Alternative Pathways for Arrivals at the Border: A Holistic Response to Increasing Migration in the Western Hemisphere.”

The paper suggests the Biden administration add programs to increase the number of work visas available to asylum seekers, as well as special parole programs to legally allow more migrants to enter the United States.