The future of migrants waiting in El Paso, Texas after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border remains uncertain after the Supreme Court decided Wednesday to allow federal officials to continue deporting migrants until they receive an asylum hearing.
“We wanted something else,” said Rosanni Rodríguez, a Venezuelan immigrant who was told of the court’s decision.
Rodriguez and her two children huddled on a chilly El Paso sidewalk Tuesday, wearing jackets provided by a local church. She said she and the children had already tried to cross into the U.S. once, but were sent back to Mexico, where they were robbed and picked up by immigration officials while they slept on the ground in a town square.
Rodriguez is among the tens of thousands of migrants pouring across the southern border despite the uncertain future of Section 42, a Trump-era policy that has allowed U.S. authorities to quickly send most migrants back across the border .
The controversial order, which was set to end Dec. 21, remains in legal limbo after the Supreme Court issued an order on Wednesday allowing the policy to remain in effect through the conclusion of legal challenges — a process that may Lasts at least a few months.
“They’re not going to give us a chance to cross the border legally,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what we want – to be able to cross the border legally – but you can’t.”
Several Republican-led states urged the Supreme Court to step in and block lower court decisions to end the policy. In addition to putting the termination order on hold, the court said it would deal with the state’s appeal during its upcoming term, which begins in February.
Title 42 was instituted by the Centers for Disease Control early in the coronavirus pandemic. Officials at the time argued that the public health order was intended to curb the spread of Covid-19, but immigration advocates argued the policy was being used to effectively stop migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In pictures: El Paso sees surge in border crossings
Dylan Corbett, executive director of the Hope Frontier Institute, which helps run some of the shelters in El Paso, warned Tuesday that he expects the Supreme Court ruling “will widen bottlenecks at the border, put unsustainable pressure on border enforcement and lead to More people died.”
Officials expect the repeal of Section 42 will trigger a massive influx of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Even with the policy in place, however, many migrants are undeterred, with some choosing to cross the border illegally while others wait in crowded shelters, makeshift camps or on the streets of Mexican border towns.
At least 22,000 migrants remain in the Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Reynosa and Matamoros, city officials and advocates told CNN on Monday.
Pastor Timothy Perea, a lifelong El Paso resident who volunteers to help arriving immigrants, said he would like to see more try to cross the border. “Cheer up. It’s coming,” he said. “It’s a wave of people looking for a better life.”
El Paso has become the focus of a growing humanitarian crisis at the border, with as many as 2,500 migrants arriving from Mexico recently, Mayor Oscar Leeser said. City officials have declared a state of emergency as the community is overwhelmed by the influx of asylum seekers.
Deputy city manager Mario D’Agostino said Tuesday that while Title 42 remains in effect as legal challenges unfold in court, El Paso is working on a plan to deal with a potential surge in immigration after Title 42 ends.
“Some say 10,000 to 15,000 people are waiting to cross the border in (Ciudad) Juárez. If this is all done in a relatively short period of time, space will be difficult. We know traffic will be difficult,” D’Agostino said.
Two vacant schools in the city are being prepared to house immigrants, D’Agostino said. One will be ready for use within two days, while the second will not be modified for several weeks, he added.
Hotels have also set up shelters, and some church parishes have voluntarily housed migrants, he said. About 1,000 beds have been set up at El Paso’s convention center, which hosted more than 480 immigrants on Christmas Eve, El Paso spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta confirmed to CNN. Received 420 migrants on Christmas Day.
But the city cannot accept immigrants without documents from Customs and Border Protection, according to Cruz-Acosta, who cited state and federal policies that she said require immigrants to hold documents at government-run facilities.
If undocumented immigrants show up at government-run shelters, they will be contacted by Customs and Border Protection to surrender or be referred to an NGO-run shelter, she said.
Last week, two local NGOs that take undocumented immigrants in shelters told CNN their facilities were so overcrowded that they had to process many shelter-seekers even as temperatures dropped dangerously low over the weekend. Close the door.
The situation at the border is “beyond Title 42,” Leeser told CNN’s Pamela Paul on Tuesday.
“We cannot continue with this broken immigration system that must be fixed,” the mayor said. “It’s bigger than the United States. I have to work with the UN and the countries around us to solve this problem.”
El Paso has received more than $10 million in federal funding to support its efforts to deal with the imminent wave of immigration.