If people are caught trying to cross, they will be denied re-entry for five years and may be punished.
Tightening of rules on the border between Mexico and the United States is beginning to force many to choose legal routes to immigrate. Irregular crossings are decreasing, but the causes of this influx threaten to outpace restrictions once again.
“I want to enter legally,” Venezuelan Gustavo Rodriguez told AFP in Matamoros (northern Mexico), after Washington tightened measures against illegal immigration when Title 42, adopted in 2020 supposedly to stop COVID-19, expired.
Although Title 42 was used to carry out the 2.8 million packages to Mexico of immigrants who managed to cross into the US, now with Title 8, which is still in effect, they can be sent back to their countries of origin and prevented from seeking asylum..
If caught, they are also banned from re-entry for five years and can be punished. They are chanting from the White House that “the borders are not open.”
For this reason, it would not occur to Rodriguez to cross the Rio Grande, as thousands did as of Thursday to turn themselves in to US agents and ask for protection.
“I want to enter with the best benefits,” adds this displaced military man in a camp of multicolored tents dotted along the street.
The Venezuelan does not leave CBP One, the mechanism set up by the US government to request an appointment and prove that asylum is required. The application collapsed, despite the fact that Washington promised to increase the number of daily appointments to 1,000.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard confirmed that the flow of people towards the border was “declining”.
“There were no violent confrontations or situations,” he said in a press conference, contradicting US President Joe Biden’s expectations of a temporary “chaotic” situation.
The immigration crisis is a hot potato for Democrat Biden, who will seek re-election in 2024 and serves as a backbone for his Republican rivals.
The reduced migrant exodus coincides with Mexico’s decision to “not grant” documents for passage through the country, according to Ebrard.
These papers allowed immigrants to move from southern Mexico to the northern border.
Although the government has not specified when this procedure will begin, an AFP collaborator in Chiapas verified the closure of a center where such permits were granted in the city of Tapachula, on the border with Guatemala.
About a thousand people were queuing up waiting for these documents, when they were told that from now on they had to apply for asylum or appeal to other mechanisms to regulate their stay in Mexico.
Months ago, the lack of permits turned Tapachula into a bottleneck for migrants of various nationalities.
Presidential Liaison Secretary Kevin Lopez said the Guatemalan government is anticipating a “very strong humanitarian situation,” as it will have to provide shelter to people transiting the country while “waiting for their asylum procedures.”
Among the legal avenues of immigration there are also family reunification programs and humanitarian permits for Venezuelans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans.
In any of these cases, migrants must process them before reaching ports of entry. The exceptions are a few, such as if they have been denied asylum in a country they passed through on the way to the US, if they cannot use CBP One or in the case of unaccompanied children.
But getting an appointment at CPB One is a lottery. Under a tent in Matamoros where they cook arepas with sausages, Venezuelan José Manuel Tovar is happy because he has a date after four months. “I cried, my family, all my colleagues were crying with joy,” he told AFP.
His euphoria contrasts with the unease of Randy Vargas, also Venezuelan, who warns that the restrictions will not stop immigration.
We are talking about thousands of Venezuelans, right on the border, and now thousands are coming on the (freight) train. What will they do with them? Many come out of the woods. “The immigrant will never be stopped,” he told a detention center in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where 40 migrants were killed in a fire on March 27.
Experts also warn about the limitations of these procedures. “This will lead to a further violation of the migration process, which will not stop as long as there are no conditions for this in the expelled countries,” stated Eduardo González, academician of the Tecnológico de Monterrey.
And the situation could continue to be exploited by “coyotes,” or human traffickers, who have turned illegal immigration into a multimillion-dollar business.
“Harsher solutions create chaos and empower traffickers,” David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement.