CITY JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Even before the U.S. Supreme Court decided on Tuesday to preserve a measure aimed at stopping illegal border crossings, hundreds of migrants in northern Mexico had sneaked into the U.S. state of their own accord.
The controversial pandemic-era measure known as Title 42 was due to expire on Dec. 21, but a last-minute legal hold has stymied border policy and left a growing number of migrants thinking they had nothing to lose by crossing.
After days in the frigid border city, groups of migrants from Venezuela and other countries targeted by Title 42 chose to flee rather than sit out the uncertainty of a legal tug of war unfolding in U.S. courts.
“We ran, we hid until we made it,” said Jhonatan, a Venezuelan immigrant who crossed the border into Texas from the Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez with his wife and five children, ages 3 to 16. El Paso, State, Monday night.
Jonathan gave only his first name and said by phone that he had been in Mexico for several months and did not want to enter the United States illegally.
But after his family’s journey through the dangerous jungles of Madarione, Panama, Central America and Mexico, the thought of failure was too much for him to bear.
“This will be the last straw to get here before they send us back to Venezuela,” he told Reuters.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request by a group of Republican state attorneys general to set aside a judge’s decision to invalidate Section 42. They argued that removing the article would increase the number of crossings.
The court said it would hear arguments over whether states could intervene to defend Section 42 during its February session. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
Reuters images showed migrants running along a busy highway along the border last week, with a man barefoot and holding a small child – a dangerous crossing that alarmed immigration advocates.
“We’re talking about people who have come to claim asylum … they’re still crossing the border in a very dangerous way,” said Fernando Garcia, director of the Human Rights Network at the Border.
John Martin, deputy director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless in El Paso, said a growing number of migrants at his shelter are people who have crossed the border illegally, including many Venezuelans.
“At one point, most people were on the record; now I’m seeing that reversed,” he said.
On Tuesday, ahead of the Supreme Court ruling, a Venezuelan immigrant in Ciudad Juárez who identified himself as Antonio said he was waiting to see whether U.S. border surveillance would ease, hoping to make money in the U.S. to send home.
“If they don’t terminate Title 42,” he said, “we will continue to have illegal access.”
Elsewhere at the border, other migrants said they felt they had no choice.
“We have no future in Mexico,” said Cesar, a Venezuelan immigrant living in Tijuana who did not give his last name, explaining why he once tried to cross the border fence into the United States and planned to try again.
Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City and Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Dave Graham and Gerry Doyle
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.