EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A government official in Juarez, Mexico is discouraging migrant families from coming to the border with the idea that U.S. authorities will let them in.

“As of now, in this part of the border — and also in Tamaulipas — they (U.S. authorities) are still returning families, they’re still returning people under Title 42. We are talking primarily about persons of Guatemalan, Honduran and Salvadoran nationality,” said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Population Council that oversees migrant shelters in the state.

Title 42 is an emergency rule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that allows U.S. immigration authorities to deport as soon as possible people detained for unauthorized entry at the border.

“I must say that at no time has this flow stopped. People are still being returned (to Mexico) under Title 42,” he said.

Local officials in McAllen, Texas have stated that migrant families with children are no longer being sent back to Mexico and are instead being released in the United States. The practice is known in law-enforcement circles as “Catch and release.”

Valenzuela said U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to return migrants, including families with children, to Mexican ports of entry in Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas. On Wednesday, CBP returned more than 80 Haitian and Mexican citizens through Juarez. The Haitians were mostly family units, and the Mexicans included at least two unaccompanied boys around 15 years old.

The Mexican official expressed concern about international citizens getting the idea that U.S. immigration policy changed when Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States. He said Mexican officials have already detected increased migrant activity in cities that border the U.S.

“(Biden’s) message has brought people hope … the message has made more people come to the border. (But) it’s necessary to say that things have not changed […] Title 42 is still in effect. It is not an immigration policy, it is a public health policy,” he said. “I will say it again, so it’s clear to those who (plan) to come: This is not the appropriate moment to come, to set off on a trip to the border with the intent of entering the United States.”

The official also urged migrants already on the border to seek first-hand information before showing up at U.S. ports of entry and to not listen to agitators who urge them to “put pressure” on authorities by showing up en masse.

“Don’t’ rush. Don’t listen to (erroneous) information inviting you to get close to the (international) bridges […] these actions do not benefit you. They do not help establish an orderly immigration flow,” Valenzuela said.

He also said he wanted to clarify that the only major change Mexico has made to its immigration laws is no longer keeping children in detention centers, but instead placing them in shelters. Juarez recently opened up such a shelter to comply with United Nations recommendations.

But Mexico is still receiving families with small children as well as unaccompanied minors from the United States, Valenzuela said.

The events in South Texas sent El Paso and New Mexico immigrant advocates scrambling for information and to take inventory in resources. Some of them concluded that nothing is happening here yet, but that things might change at any time.

The Rev. Rosalio Sosa, an El Paso Baptist minister who runs a shelter in Palomas, Mexico, said he’s coordinating with advocates in New Mexico to be ready.

“We don’t want to be caught unprepared. We were overrun in late 2018. The shelters in El Paso filled up. People were just being dropped off at the bus station. Evangelical churches had to step in,” said Sosa, who runs the Tierra de Oro shelter and church.

He said local authorities on both sides of the border should plan for the possibility of a phased-in reopening of the U.S. border to asylum seekers and refugees. They should also include advocates in the planning because they’re the ones who’ll end up assisting a new surge of migrant families.

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