Migrants have taken over the streets of El Paso – where food banks are just days from running dry – after making last-ditch border dashes ahead of Title 42 being lifted.
Desperate migrants huddled at bus stops and propped up makeshift tents in freezing temperatures after already making their long and treacherous journeys to Texas.
After fighting off looting cartels, walking through hazardous jungles, and cramming on overcrowded fishing boats, many of the exhausted asylum seekers told DailyMail.com they were relieved to have made it to the US before the deadline.
More than 400 National Guard troops were deployed on Tuesday ahead of the midnight expiration – causing dozens more asylum-seekers to make a break for the border to avoid grim clashes. Officials said over the weekend 2,500 migrants were arriving in El Paso daily, a figure that could rise to ‘4,000, 5,000, maybe 6,000’.
Troops watch as desperate migrants meet at the border near the Rio Grande on December 21
Migrants were seen sleeping in below-freezing temperatures Tuesday night ahead of the 12am deadline to repeal Title 42, a guidance implemented during the pandemic that makes it easier for border officials to turn away asylum seekers
Some have suggested the number could go even higher when Title 42 comes to an end, with Axios reporting 14,000 daily crossing could occur.
The guidance, invoked by Donald Trump in 2020 during the pandemic, allows officers to easily turn asylum seekers away at the Southern border. If it ends, the government will revert back to more lax immigration laws.
The pandemic-era order was set to end at midnight on the morning of Wednesday, December 21 – just four days before Christmas – after a previous legal challenge delayed the policy’s old deadline of late May.
The Department of Homeland Security has requested an additional $3 billion to deal with the impending onslaught of migrants – on top of the $56.7 billion President Biden requested to be included in the fiscal year 2023 spending bill Congress is currently negotiating for the department (DHS).
On Monday evening, the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay to keep the order in place, to which the Biden Administration responded – just before the Wednesday deadline – by asking that the GOP’s bid to keep Title 42 in place be denied.
The Oval Office added that if the court rules in their favor, it asks the deadline be extended until after the holidays to ensure an ‘orderly transition.’
That already looks to be a lost cause in border town El Paso, which has struggled to address the abnormal influx of immigrants amid uncertainty over the order as dozens of migrants seen sleeping in below-freezing temperatures Tuesday night.
William Sandigo, 45, told DailyMail.com that he and his family, including his two-year-old granddaughter Katie, had rushed to cross the border before the policy expired.
Migrant crossings at the southwest border have increased significantly across 2022
William Sandigo, 45, told DailyMail.com that he and his family, including his two-year-old granddaughter Katie, had rushed to cross the border before the policy expired
Texas sent in National Guard troops and State Troopers to the border near El Paso
Three women warm themselves by a makeshift fire near the border
The guidance, invoked by then-President Donald Trump in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, allows officers to easily turn asylum seekers away at the Southern border. If it ends, the government will revert back to more lax immigration laws
Title 42 was set to end at midnight on the morning of Wednesday, December 21 – just four days before Christmas – after a previous legal challenge delayed the policy’s old deadline of late May.
The family traveled from Nicaragua on a bus before crossing the Rio Grande, and spent 20 days in immigration centers across the US border.
He said: ‘We are leaving with our papers now. We heard about Title 42 being cut, and we wanted to come over before that happened.
‘We knew we needed to come before it expired, it will be a lot harder to cross especially with the military being involved.
‘It will be harder to come over once it is lifted we know this. We knew we needed to come in before the military came in – like they have now.
‘We are very happy that we avoided them, and glad that we crossed when we did. We have spent 20 days here so far and all of that have been in the immigration center.’
Sandigo travelled with his son William, 15 and his daughter, Alicia, 23, to join her husband in Dallas who travelled across the border last year.
He added: ‘We have family in Dallas. Mexico is the most difficult country to get through. It is very dangerous, the cartel is dangerous.
Pictured: Texas National Guard troops block immigrants from entering a high-traffic border crossing area along Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas on December 20, 2022 as viewed from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
A pizza vendor arrives to the Rio Grande to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to sell pies to migrants trying to cross into El Paso, Texas on December 20, 2022
Texas National Guard troops block immigrants from entering a high-traffic illegal border crossing area along Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas on December 20, 2022
Migrants occupy the streets surrounding the Greyhound station ahead of the since extended deadline. The Western Texas city has struggled to address the abnormal influx of immigrants amid uncertainty over the order
Hundreds of migrants were seen sitting with blankets on a street near Greyhound bus stops after frantically crossing the border before the old deadline
Migrants are seen occupying the streets surrounding the Greyhound station in El Paso Tuesday
WHAT IS TITLE 42?
Title 42 border restrictions are a public health order that enabled U.S. authorities to turn back most migrants, including people seeking asylum from persecution.
They were introduced during the pandemic and are set to expire on Wednesday, after several extensions.
But the number of migrants now attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border is at its highest level in two decades – with even larger numbers expected to arrive once the pandemic-era order is lifted.
Many of those were repeat crossers because Title 42 carries no legal or criminal consequences.
Title 42 authority has been applied unevenly across nationalities.
Mexico has agreed to take back migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico – and limited numbers from Cuba and Nicaragua.
Title 42 is one of two major surviving Trump-era policies to deter asylum at the border.
‘Every stop you make is dangerous, if you stop they rob you. They have weapons, we had no problems crossing the border but I was terrified in Mexico with the children.’
Many of the migrants are being put up in charity shelters, but others have set up an unofficial camp outside of the Greyhound bus station less than a mile from the border crossing.
They have been provided with clothes and blankets as well as food, with some locals dropping off their own coats and clothing to keep them warm as they prepare to sleep on the streets.
A single mother is planning to travel to Colorado, after jumping onto the ‘Beast’ with her eight-year-old daughter – describing the moment they avoided immigration authorities.
Maria Andrade, 35, said: ‘We went through six or seven countries, we got here yesterday after travelling for three months from Venezuela on foot.
‘We climbed mountains and went through rivers on our feet. I am very sad and scared for my daughter.
‘It was a terrifying journey for her, she should be able to be a child. She is missing out on Christmas, on Santa and the celebration of Jesus.
‘We jumped onto the beast train, we spent a whole week on there. It was freezing, we felt like we had hypothermia.
‘Yesterday was our first night, the hotels here are very expensive and we do not know how we are going to get to Colorado yet.
‘My son moved to Colorado, I am a manicurist and there was no work for me. we make only 15 American dollars a day.’
Her cousin, Hermilo Rancon, 43, added: ‘I am a teacher, we have been listening to the news talking about Title 42 so we were aware of it.
‘It was very difficult for us to cross with the military there, we waited a very long time to cross and the water was up to our waist and freezing.
Another mother, Darlenh, was preparing to travel to Miami with her three children – Kenneth, 7, Jimmy, 10 and Ashley, 16 – after being robbed by the Mexican cartel
Some of the asylum seekers were seen inside terminals waiting to be carted elsewhere, while the vast majority were shunned to the streets in temperatures that straddles 32 degrees
‘There were tons of migration police, but we managed to make it past. There was no future for us in our country.
‘We do not have papers, we do not know what we are going to do. But we do not think that Title 42 will be eliminated. The last three months have been a travesty but we are glad we are here.’
Another mother, Darlenh, was preparing to travel to Miami with her three children – Kenneth, 7, Jimmy, 10 and Ashley, 16 – after being robbed by cartels.
The 37-year-old told DailyMail.com: ‘We went on a boat, we were told that it was easier that way, a fishing boat with 15 people on it.
The pronounced uptick in asylum seekers in the city sparked the mayor to issue a state of emergency saying he could no longer ensure residents’ safety as border crossings have overwhelmed law enforcement personnel and local food banks
Seats were in short supply at this terminal, with some migrants relegated to the floor as they waited to be transported elsewhere
‘We paid the cartels to come over and they robbed everything from us. They stole our money, phones, and my son’s backpack.
‘The church here got us accommodation. I am a nanny for private school children in Guatemala, and the situation was getting scary.
‘There were people in the government who were looking for information on my family, we had to get out.’
The family-of-four are now travelling on a 48 hour bus to Miami eight days after travelling over the Rio Grande with the children.
Byron, a father-of-two, added: ‘It took us two months to get here, we have been in the US for 10 days. We walked through the jungle and stayed in tents with my two children – both under ten.
‘A lot of people we know died, it is a very hard journey. We are hoping to go to New York – we have been told that there is a free bus there so we are hopeful.
‘Our family has been staying on the streets, the journey here was dangerous – anyone can kill you.’
A mom consoles her child after making it across the border late Tuesday ahead of the 12am Wednesday deadline, which has been extended by a week as the Supreme Court mulls whether it will keep the COVID-era guidance in place
Food banks in the Western Texas city are reportedly struggling to keep up with the influx of migrants in recent days, which in large part have been families with small children
Migrants are forced to spend their days and nights on the streets of El Paso, Texas after being released by US Border Patrol due to shelters being beyond capacity in El Paso, Texas, USA, 20 December 2022
Meanwhile, a massive Texas National Guard presence arrived at the southern border in El Paso Monday evening into Tuesday morning, sent by Texas Governor Greg Abbott amid warning that crossings along the entire border could surge to 14,000 or more every day once Title 42 ends – sparking larger than usual crossings.
The largest-ever caravan included more than 1,000 migrants who crossed into El Paso last weekend.
El Paso has declared a state of emergency over the ongoing crisis. Mayor Oscar Leeser said he decided to finally make the declaration as the situation is beginning to threaten the safety of residents and migrants alike.
He said 2,500 migrants are arriving in El Paso daily, and that those numbers are likely to multiply as the Trump-era border legislation expires.
Food banks in the Western Texas city are reportedly struggling to keep up with the influx of migrants in recent days, with Susan Goodell, the CEO of El Pasoanas Fighting Hunger Food Bank, telling Fox News Tuesday night that her team is down to about five days’ worth of food for the entire community.
‘We are having to bring in specialized supplies for the migrants’ needs. This includes read-to-eat food, and we’re making food ourselves such as sandwiches in our warehouse,’ Goodell told the outlet.
‘We are constantly in need of volunteers to help us make those sandwiches because we’re not only supplying them to migrants on the streets but we’re also supplying them to all of the major shelters.’
Republicans had long warned that the nixing of the restriction would see a surge in crossings after it was enacted at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 by then-President Trump.
The health-related policy was meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 from coming over the border into the U.S. – but the policy had the additional benefit to border communities of keeping illegal immigration at bay over the least nearly three years.
With the public-health rule in place, Border Patrol and immigration enforcement were able to expel migrants without hearing their asylum claims.
Just after midnight, when Title 42 was supposed to be lifted, all was quiet on the banks of Rio Grande in El Paso where the Texas National Guard was posted.
Hundreds of migrants had gathered by the concertina wire put up by the Texas National Guard but left earlier in the evening after being told by US officials to go to a gate to be processed in small groups.
First Sergeant Suzanne Ringle said one woman went into labor in the crowd on the riverbank and was assisted by Border Patrol agents. She added many children were among the crowd.
In the Mexican city of Juarez, across the border from El Paso, hundreds of migrants remained in line hoping that the restrictions would be lifted and they would be let through.
In Tijuana, which has an estimated 5,000 migrants staying in more than 30 shelters and many more renting rooms and apartments, the border was quiet Tuesday night as word spread among would-be asylum seekers that nothing had changed.
Layered, razor-topped walls rising 30 feet along the border with San Diego make the area daunting for illegal crossings.
Migrants who cross into El Paso are now coming face-to-face with National Guard troops and being redirected after a week of free flowing over the border
Texas National Guard have played a huge role in mitigating the migration crisis at the southern border – they have helped process at least 1,000 migrants every day
On 2.5 million occasions since Title 42 was invoked in March 2020, migrants have been denied rights to seek asylum in the U.S. and are now coming face-to-face with hundreds of troops deployed by Abbott.
As an additional security measure, National Guard members started redirecting migrants on Tuesday to the legal port of entry so they could not evade Border Patrol for processing.
Abbott’s spokesperson Renae Eze told DailyMail.com in a statement that the governor’s officer expect the number of migrants crossing the border the next week as the Republican-dominated Supreme Court mulls their decision.
Mexican police stand guard on the Ciudad Juarez, Mexico side of the southern border as migrants stand on the bank of the Rio Grande River waiting to cross into El Paso, Texas and claim asylum with U.S. Border Patrol agents
Crossings from Mexico and Northern Triangle nations – Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras – dropped by 43 percent since September, a Homeland Security official told DailyMail.com.
But there was a sudden surge at the same time from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela – all three countries that are exempt from Title 42 expulsion policies.
With the national eye turned to El Paso as the recent Ground Zero for the border crisis, the DHS agent said that there is ‘pushback from Washington to shut it down to the press’.
The official also explained that the huge surge to the border in the last few days is due to last-ditch efforts to be expelled under Title 42 rather than usual immigration laws under Title 8.
If expelled under Title 8, migrants attempting to re-cross could face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison.