There is a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, with an average of 2,500 men, women and children crossing into El Paso, Texas every day. That number could soon skyrocket with the expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era rule that made it easier to turn back migrants — many who are fleeing poverty and persecution in their home countries.
A ruling on the expiration is expected Friday.
Along the point where El Paso, Texas, meets Mexico, hundreds of refugees and migrants are awaiting an uncertain future. They know next week marks an important date. If Title 42 ends on Wednesday, the lines to enter the U.S. will get longer, and their chances to stay in the U.S. may be brighter.
Despite some doubts, some at the border are hopeful.
The joy of one child, Gladys, almost masked her parents' exhaustion after a 20-day journey from Ecuador, where they say criminal gangs extorted them and threatened to harm her. She said she hopes to have a good future — to study and, one day, have a good job.
Gladys and her family were at the final stretch of their journey to enter the United States. Several times a day, Border Patrol opens up the gates to let dozens of migrants in to be processed, and many are released to wait for an asylum hearing in the U.S.
El Paso, however, is saturated in terms of shelters available for migrants. Resources will be further strained if Title 42 expires next Wednesday, leading to an expected surge of migrants trying to cross the border.
But the fate of the policy — first invoked at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic by Trump administration officials who argued the measure was necessary to contain the spread of the virus along U.S. borders — remains uncertain amid intensifying political and legal battles.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, some migrants are waiting for Wednesday to arrive, hoping that Title 42's termination moves forward. When one group of men there left Venezuela, the U.S. was taking in migrants from their country. But along their journey, U.S. policy changed. Mexico agreed to take in Venezuelan migrants, and now they're forced to stay in Mexico, feeling unsafe.
They hope their luck is about to change, and are praying they are allowed into the United States. One migrant said "an avalanche of Venezuelans" are on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced a six-point plan for when Title 42 is lifted, including sending more resources to the border and increasing efficiency in processing those who enter.