CIUDAD JUAREZ, CHIHUAHUA.- The U.S.-Mexico border was relatively calm as the U.S. ended its pandemic-era immigration restrictions and migrants adapted to new asylum rules and legal pathways meant to discourage illegal crossings.
A full day after the rules known as Title 42 were lifted, migrants and government officials on Friday were still assessing the effects of new regulations adopted by President Joe Biden’s administration in the hope of stabilizing the Southwest border region and undercutting smugglers who charge migrants to get there.
Migrants are now essentially barred from seeking asylum in the U.S. if they did not first apply online or seek protection in the countries they traveled through. Families allowed in as their immigration cases progress will face curfews and GPS monitoring. Those expelled can now be barred from reentry for five years and face possible criminal prosecution.
Across the river from El Paso, Texas, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, many migrants watched their cellphones in hopes of getting a coveted appointment to seek entry. The official app to register to enter the United States underwent changes this week, as it offers appointments for migrants to enter through land crossings.
Many migrants in northern Mexico resigned themselves to waiting for an appointment rather than approaching the border without authorization.
“I hope it’s a little better and that the appointments are streamlined a little more,” said Yeremy Depablos, 21, a Venezuelan traveling with seven cousins who have been waiting in Ciudad Juárez for a month. Fearing deportation, Depablos did not want to cross illegally. “We have to do it the legal way.”
The U.S. Homeland Security Department said it has not witnessed any substantial increase in immigration.
But in southern Mexico, migrants including children still flocked to railways at Huehuetoca on Friday, desperate to clamor aboard freight trains heading north toward the U.S.
The legal pathways touted by the Biden administration consist of a program that permits up to 30,000 people a month from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to enter if they apply online with a financial sponsor and enter through an airport.