Confusion as US border measures related to COVID expire

Confusion as US border measures related to COVID expire
Confusion as US border measures related to COVID expire
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El Paso, Texas (United States): Early Friday, the rules that allowed US border guards to expel hundreds of thousands of people seeking asylum in the past three years expired, leaving migrants with an uncertain future and exacerbating the ongoing debate over immigration.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to try to cross the border into the United States in the next few days, hoping to escape poverty and the criminal gangs wreaking havoc in their countries.

For three years, the measure known as “Chapter 42”, with the aim of limiting the spread of Covid-19, allowed the US authorities to control the 3,200 km border with Mexico, by expelling arrivals before they could request asylum.

But with the Covid-related emergency over, the measure expired at midnight US EST (0400 GMT), to be replaced by new restrictions.

New restrictions
The new restrictions require asylum seekers and other immigrants to request entry from outside the United States.

But it is not yet clear how things will actually play out, and the situation has fueled the debate over immigration.

President Joe Biden’s administration finds itself in a difficult situation, between offering asylum paths demanded by members of the Democratic Party to which Biden belongs, and avoiding scenes of hundreds of people sneaking across the border.

“As of tonight, people who arrive at the border without following a legal path will be deemed ineligible for asylum,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said as Chapter 42 expires.

“We have 24,000 border guards on the southwestern border, and we have mobilized thousands of soldiers and contractors and more than a thousand asylum-seekers to help enforce our laws,” he added.

Biden’s Republican opponents denounced what they called an “invasion”.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told reporters in Brownsville that there are 22,000 people camped out on the other side of the border, off Texas alone, in the far south.

“I have to say I’m angry, because this is deliberate, it’s a decision by President Joe Biden, (Vice President) Kamala Harris, and the Democrats in Congress to open the border that amounts to an invasion,” he added.

The situation is “catastrophic”
Senator Roger Marshall told Fox News the situation at the border was “catastrophic.”

And he considered that “the first threat to our national security is here in south Texas, all the way to Arizona,” adding, “This is not the America I grew up in.”

AFP correspondents in Brownsville reported dozens of police cars deployed on the American side of the bridge linking the city to Matamoros, Mexico.

Not far away, they could see heavy machinery working as workers prepared the ground for the installation of barbed wire.

In El Paso, hundreds of people who entered the US through a legal border gate Thursday had their files processed and allowed to file an initial asylum application.

However, confusion arose among the border guards about what would happen in the coming hours and days.

One of them said, in response to a question about how to deal with immigrants, “We do not know.”

On the border Thursday, some sought to seize the last minute before the procedure expired, crossing the narrow Rio Grande river near Brownsville, hoping to enter the United States after surrendering to border patrols.

“I hope to be able to stay in this country,” said Ecuadorian Jimmy Muñoz (29 years), after arriving in the US, adding, “But I have my doubts and fears that they will allow me to do so.”

Separate families
Families were separated in the chaos. Venezuelan Patricia Vargas sat weeping at a bus station in Brownsville, where hundreds of migrants were waiting for an opportunity to move elsewhere.

As for her son, his wife, and her two grandchildren, they were unable to cross.

“There were five of us in total, and only I managed to get through,” she said, crying.

Asylum seekers are required to conduct interviews through a smartphone application, knowing that a number of users reported a bug in the application other than that it poses a dilemma for people who do not have phones or Wi-Fi.

Mayorcas defended the application, stressing that the responsible authorities are in the process of addressing technical problems.

“The biggest challenge with CBOne is not technology, but the fact that we have more immigrants than we can schedule for them,” he said.

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