The line beside the border wall is 100 long before sun up on Thursday.
The arrivals — from Colombia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Mauritania, Ecuador, Brazil, China, but mostly from Peru on Thursday morning — wait patiently for their turn to be processed and to climb aboard a Customs and Border Protection bus.
By the time each load moves on, another few dozen migrants have threaded their way across a canal and over the Colorado River that marks the border with Mexico.
Within an hour more than 300 people are waiting in line. This is how the day before the end of Title 42 looks in Yuma, Arizona.
The city is already overstretched. With no beds left, officials say they began releasing migrants on to the streets two days ago, with court hearing dates set for 2026 or 2027.
Hundreds of people crossed on to U.S. soil from Mexico around Yuma, Arizona, on Thursday morning hours before Title 42 was due to expire. Similar scenes were repeated elsewhere
Sandra, 32, and Bruno, 32, from Perus said they were just relieved to arrive on U.S. soil, clutching their three-year-old daughter Sophia
By the end of the day the number of arrivals is forecast to be well over 1000.
Sandra, 32, and Bruno, 32, said they were just relieved to arrive on U.S. soil, clutching their three-year-old daughter Sophia.
‘She has a condition, autism,’ said Sandra. ‘There is just not good care for her in Peru.’
They shuttered their travel agency and used their savings to make the two-day journey, flying into Mexico and then making their way to the crossing.
More than three-quarters of the line has come from Peru. People offer the same story: Months of political upheaval has triggered daily protests and frequent police crackdowns, often with deadly force.
Many flew in to Mexicali, before being directed on to the border wall and told to find a gap.
They arrive in trickles of five, seven, a dozen at a time. They come in thick coats as protection from the night chill.
As they reach the head of the line they are handed small, transparent plastic bags. Documents and small children’s toys are slipped inside.
At least 300 people lined up beside the border wall outside Yuma on Thursday morning. Behind the cordon, these arrivals are beginning processing with Border Patrol officers
About 100 people were already lining up before 5am. As buses drove off with loads of about 40 people, dozens more people took their places. The number in line grew to 300 before 7am
To reach U.S. soil, migrants had to cross the Colorado River and scramble up a bank
Everything else is tagged and stored for retrieval later, although a charity volunteer explained that almost no one goes back to collect souvenirs from a former life.
A group of three Chinese people latched on to the back of the line, joining another handful already in the queue.
They are a reminder that not everyone is affected by Title 42. Although it has been used to to make 2.8 million migrant expulsion, it only applied to nationalities that Mexico was willing to accept: initially El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and later Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
Either way Yuma is full up.
County Supervisor Jonathan Lines said processing capacity was maxed out. Street releases began on Tuesday, he said, with buses laid on to take people to Phoenix.
Rather than evading Border Patrol, arrivals made their way to a collection point where they can be registered to make their asylum claim before being released for a future court hearing
Arrivals came from China, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil. But the vast majority said they were fleeing unrest in Peru
‘They have been given a piece of paper saying they have been processed and have a court dates,’ he said. ‘But most court dates that are being handed out are 2026 and 2027.’
Similar scenes are playing out up and down the border. In all, officials say they have been detaining as many as 10,000 people a day.
Title 42 was activated by the Trump administration to stem the spread of COVID-19. It is a public health measure that allows border authorities to immediately expel arrivals before they could even claim asylum.
But with the pandemic over, it finally expires at midnight eastern time on Thursday.
The Biden administration has rushed through new restrictions, effectively restoring Trump’s ‘transit ban,’ which allows for the deportation of arrivals who did not seek asylum in countries through which they traveled.
Migrants can legally present themselves at the border if they used a mobile app, CBP One, to register in advance.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained Thursday that the end of Title 42 meant migrants would now be processed under Title 8
But that has still left the Biden administration scrambling to get out the message that the gates to the U.S. are not being thrown open.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained Thursday that the end of Title 42 meant migrants would now be processed under Title 8.
‘Here’s what that means,’ he said. ‘If anyone arrives at our southern border after midnight tonight, they will be presumed ineligible for asylum and subject to steeper consequences for unlawful entry, including a minimum five-year ban on reentry and potential criminal prosecution.’
Don’t listen to the people offering you a path to the promised land, he added.
‘Know this: Smugglers care only about profits not people,’ he said.
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