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Future Uncertain for Migrants in Mexico Border Tent Cities While Waiting Out Title 42 Supreme Court Battle

An estimated 4,300 migrants wait in two tent cities across the Texas border in Mexico amid while waiting for a Supreme Court ruling.
Tráfico de personas en El Paso | Shutterstock
Tráfico de personas en El Paso | Shutterstock

As the U.S. endured sweeping cold temperatures across the nation from a freezing Christmas Arctic blast, thousands of migrants and potential asylum seekers have literally waited out the storm and pending court battles over Title 42 on the other side of the Mexico-Texas border.

News reports indicate that two camps were established in Reynosa, a Mexican town just across the border from McAllen, Texas. The camps were reportedly set up by faith-based groups such as Ministerio Senda de Vida. By Christmas, there were an estimated 1,300 in one camp and 3,000 at a second.

Some of the migrants were reportedly emigrating from Haiti and told NBC Newscasters they came to the U.S. to join other family members who successfully emigrated, but were waiting to find out how the Supreme Court would rule on the Biden administration’s attempts to repeat Title 42, which enabled the U.S. to temporarily suspend usual asylum seeking procedures due to COVID-19.

Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday issued a temporary stay on the Trump-era policy following a challenge by Republican states, prohibiting the Biden administration from removing the legal barriers for would be refugees to enter the U.S. until the case is heard.

The states appealed for the Supreme Court to hear the case after U.S. District Court Emmett Sullivan ruled in favor of striking down the law, saying it was no longer in the wake of the fading pandemic. Sullivan set a sunset date of Dec. 21 for Title 42 in his ruling.

That expiration date however were preempted by Roberts’ Dec. 19 ruling, which came after a 5-4 vote among the justices to hear the Republican challenges.

Roberts, became the new swing vote of the Court since the departure of former Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy, cast a decisive vote in the matter, while Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch was the lone conservative jurist who dissented.

"Even the federal government acknowledges ‘that the end of the Title 42 orders will likely have disruptive consequences,’" Gorsuch wrote.

"But the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis. And courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emer­gency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency. We are a court of law, not policymak­ers of last resort."

While Title 42 has been utilized to effectively halt an estimated 2.5 million attempted entries by migrants, another 2.3 million have passed through, and thousands more who hope to enter the country legally are now left waiting to determine their fate—among cold temperatures that have swept across the U.S. from the northeast with freezing temperatures all the way to the Arizona and Texas borders.

While the Biden administration has aimed to end Title 42, it has still aimed to reduce the number of migrants who can actually apply for asylum with alternate proposals. One of those proposals would allow Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans to apply for humanitarian parole from home without emigrating to the border, similar to the program the administration recently enacted for Venezuelans.

In the meantime however, those waiting out the Court battle are facing cold to freezing temperatures along the border while some others who made the crossing face challenges in cities like El Paso where officials have declared a state of emergency. Officials in that southwest city and others have scrambled to find shelter for migrants who have been living outside.

To address the situation, Texas sent its National Guard in along with state troopers from the Department of Public Safety to build add wire to concrete embankments at the border, hoping it would be a deterrent for migrants seeking to cross the deadly Rio Grande river.

The journey to the southwest border is very high risk as many have confronted danger from criminal cartels, endured kidnappings and treacherous crossings in the jungle across the Darien Gap, which bridges Colombia and Panama.

Title 42 has been partially effective to implement migration controls, since on the one hand it has helped U.S. authorities expel asylum seekers, but on the other it lacks the Title 8 penalties for border crossings. Since the Biden administration came to power, the recidivism rate has increased.

Both Democrats and Republicans are continuing to debate immigration reform measures but have not arrived at a compromise.

Related Story: Supreme Court Allows Pandemic-Related Border Security Policy to Stand for Now

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