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Why did Title 42 end, and what's happening at the border?

New immigration policies as Title 42 expires
Biden administration announces new immigration policies ahead of Title 42's expiration 04:19

CBS News immigration reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez is at the U.S.-Mexico border covering Title 42's expiration, and how El Paso, Texas, and other border communities are grappling with a record number of migrant arrivals. The pandemic-related restriction has allowed U.S. officials to quickly expel hundreds of thousands of migrants without processing their asylum claims over the past three years.

Tens of thousands of migrants across the border in Mexico were awaiting the policy's end, which came at 11:59 p.m. EDT Thursday. In preparation, the Biden administration implemented stricter deportation efforts and asylum restrictions that represent major shifts in U.S. policy.

During a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session on Thursday, Montoya-Galvez answered readers' questions about the end of Title 42, the future of U.S. immigration policy and the migrants who are left to navigate the complex and ever-changing legal landscape. Here are some of his answers.

Why did Title 42 end now?

Until the spring of 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued that Title 42 was needed to contain the coronavirus. But in April 2022, the agency said there was no public health basis to continue expelling migrants and announced the policy's termination.

The administration couldn't end Title 42 last year due to an order from a federal judge in Louisiana who agreed to a request from Republican-led states to block the policy's termination on technical grounds. The expulsions were again set to end in December 2022 after another federal judge declared the rule illegal. But his ruling was later paused by the U.S. Supreme Court, again at the request of Republican-led states.

Title 42 ended at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday because the national COVID-19 public health emergency is expiring, eliminating one of the legal underpinnings of the policy.

How did U.S. border cities prepare as Title 42 ended?

The local shelter system in El Paso has been strained by the sharp increase in migrant arrivals. Right now, most of the efforts to house migrants are being led by nonprofits and local officials.

Humanitarian workers and volunteers who support welcoming migrants have expressed concerns about their ability to help, feed and house migrants if border crossings continue to increase once Title 42 lifts. El Paso is even converting a vacant middle school into a temporary shelter for migrants.

While groups and border cities like El Paso are receiving federal funds to do this work, many here want the federal government to be directly housing migrants. So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has not been authorized to do so.

Migrants wait on the banks of the Rio Grande to be processed by the Border Patrol in Texas after crossing from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on May 11, 2023.
Migrants wait on the banks of the Rio Grande to be processed by the Border Patrol in Texas after crossing from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on May 11, 2023. HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Where are the migrants coming from?

Most of the migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border hail from nations like Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the traditional sending countries of Northern Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — and Mexico.

Many migrants have told CBS News that they left their home countries due to extreme poverty, hunger and a lack of economic opportunities. Some want to reunite with family members in the U.S. And most of them know there are jobs in the U.S. in sectors like landscaping, construction and agriculture. Other migrants are fleeing violence and government persecution.

The legal threshold to secure asylum — you have to prove you were persecuted because of certain reasons, like your religion or politics — is very high, and economic hardship or a desire to reunite with family are not grounds for U.S. asylum. So not all of these migrants will qualify for asylum. But for them, this is the only and quickest way to work and live in the U.S.

Because of this, some lawmakers have proposed expanding temporary work programs and other immigration channels to allow would-be migrants to come to the U.S. legally, as opposed to undertaking an often dangerous trek to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Has there been an increase in migrants at the border?

The situation along the southern border is unprecedented in many ways. Border Patrol has reported record levels of migrant apprehensions in the past few years. In fiscal year 2022, Border Patrol recorded more than 2 million apprehensions, an all-time high.

This week, we have seen a record increase in the number of migrants entering the U.S. without legal permission. More than 10,000 migrants have been apprehended by Border Patrol on a daily basis in recent days. That is severely straining the government's capacity to process migrants and the resources of border communities. Officials are worried migrant arrivals could increase further once Title 42 expires.

That being said, it is important to note that not all migrants who reach U.S. soil are released and allowed to stay. Many are swiftly deported or detained in holding sites.

How has the Biden administration prepared?

The Biden administration's strategy to manage migration to the southern border once Title 42 expires relies on the combination of expanded opportunities for migrants to enter the U.S. legally with restrictive measures designed to deter illegal crossings.

On Wednesday, the administration finalized a rule that will disqualify migrants from asylum if they enter the U.S. without permission after failing to seek protection in a third country, like Mexico, en route to American soil. Migrants subjected to this policy will face deportation and a five-year banishment from the U.S.

At the same time, the administration is expanding programs for migrants to come to the U.S. legally, including through a mobile app for asylum-seekers in Mexico and a program for migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who have American sponsors.

What is the vetting process?

All migrants processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection are screened by the agency, which conducts public safety and national security checks on them before deciding whether to deport, release or detain them.

Migrants are not released from federal custody unless CBP determines they are not a threat to public safety or national security. Migrants determined to pose these threats are typically kept in detention pending their deportation. CBP last year also started vaccinating migrants against COVID-19.

That being said, some lawmakers have expressed concern about migrants who evade apprehension and enter the country illegally without being processed. Most migrants, however, are apprehended.

Editor's note: These questions and answers have been edited and condensed for space and clarity.

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