AFP – The United States (US)-Mexico border appeared calm on Friday as tough asylum rules come into force, with senior officials in Washington expressing confidence that the new system would work.
Thousands of people remained on the Mexican side of the frontier hoping to enter the US, but the chaotic surge of migrants that right-wing politicians predicted failed to materialise.
“We are seeing people arrive at our southern border, as we expected, as we have been planning for,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on Friday.
“We are screening and vetting them and if they do not have a basis to remain, we will remove them very swiftly.”
Arrangements at the border changed at midnight, as the pandemic era Title 42 a health provision that allowed for immediate expulsion expired.
In its place is a regularised immigration rule that threatens illegal border-crossers with five-year bans and possible criminal charges, and requires asylum-seekers to apply from outside the country. “Our plan will take some time, but our plan will succeed,” said Mayorkas.
Up to 10,000 people have tried to enter the country every day over the past week, border officials told the US media.
Many turned themselves in to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hoping to be registered and “paroled” – let go because authorities did not have the capacity to house them or expel them.
At the airport in El Paso on Friday, Yoenny Camacaro was hunkered down waiting for a flight to Indiana to reunite with her cousin.
The 23-year-old, who has been granted an appointment with a judge in November 2024, said she was very happy to have arrived in the US after a long and difficult journey from Venezuela through the jungle and by train.
“It’s cold, you don’t eat, you can’t go to the bathroom, and we depended on food being thrown at us,” she told AFP. “But that’s over. Now we’re here, we’ve done it.”
CALM AND NORMAL
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the number of US-bound migrants crossing his country was ebbing.
He said around 26,500 migrants were waiting in Mexican cities along the long US frontier, and the situation was “calm and normal”.
“The flux is dropping today. We have not had confrontations or situations of violence on the border,” Ebrard told reporters.
Mexico’s national immigration agency has ordered its offices to stop issuing documents authorising migrants to transit through the country, officials said, in an apparent attempt to curb flows to the US border.
Edith Tapia of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian non-profit group, said the new policy limiting the ways in which vulnerable people could claim asylum left them prey to the criminal gangs.
This “will continue to put migrants and asylum seekers at risk and (leave them) without the possibility of protection,” she told AFP in El Paso