As of midnight on Thursday, the ‘Title 42’ rule implemented during the Trump administration, which allowed for the expulsion of individuals who entered the United States unlawfully during the pandemic, has expired. This opens the door for potentially even stricter regulations to be put in place.
Hours before, thousands of immigrants rushed to the US-Mexico in a desperate attempt to seek asylum even as additional troops were deployed to the border to tackle the influx.
“Starting tonight, people who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway will be presumed ineligible for asylum. We are ready to humanely process and remove people without a legal basis to remain in the US,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
“The border is not open,” he added. “People who do not use available lawful pathways to enter the US now face tougher consequence.”
It is uncertain how many are looking to cross the border, but border patrol officers peg the number anywhere upwards of 60,000.
Speaking to CBS News, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said his agency is preparing for some of the tens of thousands of migrants currently on the Mexican side of the US-Mexico border once Title 42 expires on Thursday at 11.59 pm ET (local time)
“Upwards of 60,000 migrants we project are staging in and around the immediate border area,” Ortiz told CBS News in El Paso.
“So, we’re focused on ensuring that we’re doing everything we can to allocate resources to address those flows.”
Title 42 was imposed in March 2020, in which many border crossers were expelled to Mexico without a chance to seek asylum, leading to repeat attempts.
President Joe Biden, after assuming office, continued with the policy, but faced massive criticism from all corners, following which he decided to end the rule and came up with more stringent regulations that seek to curb illegal crossovers. The rule was first announced in February.
The new regulation, which will come into effect once Title 42 is lifted, will deny asylum to almost all migrants who cross illegally. They will not only be allowed to return for five years, but also can face criminal prosecution if they try to.
Moreover, it will bar anyone who has passed through another country without seeking refuge elsewhere or who failed to use legal pathways to enter the United States.
In 2019, Donald Trump looked to impose similar but stricter measures, but a federal appeals court prevented it from taking effect.
According to local news reports, around 24,000 enforcement officers are guarding the 1,951-mile (3,140-kilometer) border with Mexico. Moreover, at least 1,500 active-duty military troops are being deployed to back up US Customs and Border Protection. And 2,500 National Guard troops are already there, tasked to help out CBP.
On Tuesday, Biden said that his administration was working to make the change orderly. “But it remains to be seen,” he told reporters. “It’s going to be chaotic for a while.”