Migrant detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border have reached full capacity as the number of migrants attempting to cross into the nation continues to increase ahead of the expiration of Title 42, according to an official with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
More than 20,500 migrants are currently in the custody of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southwest border as of Saturday, the official said, adding that the actual number of migrants in custody varies every day.
As of Friday, Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley sector currently has around 7,500 migrants in custody, despite having a holding capacity of only 4,000 migrants.
“I want to say the first two weeks of April, we were averaging about maybe 1,700 Venezuelan nationals entering illegally into the country through that particular area in Brownsville,” said Gloria Chavez, Border Patrol Chief for the Rio Grande Valley Sector. “And then two weeks later, towards the end, here the last eight days, we saw an uptick of over 15,000 Venezuelans.”
Border Patrol agents in the southern border have seen an increase in encounters with undocumented migrants attempting to cross the border ahead of the expiration of the pandemic-era immigration policy Title 42.
Title 42 was implemented in March 2020 to allow border patrol agents to quickly expel undocumented migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The policy is set to end this month on May 11, after which asylum seekers will no longer be deported back to their home countries.
The Department of Homeland Security is expecting between 13,000 and 18,000 migrants a day—around 400,000 per month—once the policy ends.
Currently, there are “several thousand” migrants in northern Mexico waiting for the policy to expire and take their shot at obtaining asylum in the U.S., a senior Customs and Border Protection official told CNN.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a set of measures aimed at discouraging people from traveling to the border.
First, beginning on May 12 “expedited removal will begin” for those who cross the borders “without having first taken the legal pathway to entry,” Mayorkas said.
Second, the U.S. will deploy asylum officers to new “regional processing centers” in Guatemala and Colombia to expand legal pathways for migrants.