Title 42, the public health order that allowed the federal government to expel migrants within hours of entering the country and almost brought asylum applications to a standstill, expired Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET.
In 2020, the Trump administration imposed the decades-old rule to stop the spread of COVID-19. As a result, over 2.8 million people have been expelled or returned from the U.S. since its implementation.
Starting Friday, migrants will be processed under Title 8, which requires the government to screen people for asylum claims before deporting them. Only those who can prove their life is in danger will be allowed to stay in the country under an expedited removal process.
Migrants undergo faster proceedings if they’re within 100 miles of the border and have been in the country for less than 14 days. Credible fear interviews are given to migrants if it’s their first time entering the country. Individuals can participate in reasonable fear interviews if they’ve entered before.
Reasonable fear interviews have a higher standard, meaning migrants have to prove there is a more than 50 percent chance they’d be persecuted upon return to their home countries on account of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group.
Credible fear interviews are similar, but migrants don’t need to meet such a high threshold.
The government expects to see a dramatic uptick in individuals claiming asylum at the southern border now that Title 42 has come to an end. At a press conference Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said thousands of personnel would be sent to the southern border to help facilitate the arrivals for a 90-day period starting Friday.
Still, he wanted to send the message that the border will not be open to all migrants that arrive.
“To people who are thinking about making a journey to the southern border,” he said. “Do not risk your life and your life savings only to be removed from the U.S. if and when you arrive here.”
The Biden administration has taken steps to expand opportunities for migrants to come to the U.S. lawfully, while also establishing harsher consequences for anyone found in violation of immigration requirements.
Migrants who cross the border without going through proper channels risk being removed in a matter of days, being barred from reentry for at least five years and their eligibility to claim asylum. It’s not known if the ban would be permanent and the DHS did not respond to a request seeking clarification.
Individuals that return to the U.S. in the event of a ban might face criminal prosecution.
Exceptions will be made in certain cases, including if a migrant has applied for asylum or protection in another country and has been denied.
Mayorkas said that the federal government is currently conducting dozens of removal flights a week and plans to increase the number of those flights in the future.
His department is encouraging asylum-seekers to choose one of three options: make an appointment to present themselves at a port of entry, undergo a new family reunification process or access services at regional processing centers.
It’s not clear how the revised protocols will differ from previous ones. More details will be released in mid-June, a press release states.
To meet demand, Mayorkas said more appointments will become available in the next weeks and months.
According to a press release, the government intends to set up hubs in Colombia and Guatemala, where migrants can participate in interviews with immigration specialists and be processed for entry into either the U.S., Canada or Spain upon qualification.
Migrants will be able to make appointments on their phones before leaving their home countries.
In the wake of Title 42 ending, the Mexican government has agreed to accept approximately 30,000 Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan and Venezuelan nationals who reach the U.S. and aren’t granted entry each month.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed legislation called the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which would require Border Customs and Border Protection to hire 22,000 Border Patrol agents, and force homeland security to restart construction of former President Donald Trump’s border wall.
The legislation is unlikely to pass in the Senate, where Democrats currently hold the majority. President Joe Biden has indicated that he will veto the bill.
As politicians cast their votes late Thursday afternoon, thousands of migrants began to gather in cities across the southern border. Videos and photos showing long lines and delivery drivers bringing food to those waiting started circulating on social media.
Many of the migrants arriving are single men or mothers with children, each of whom are left with the decision to wait at ports of entry or cross into the United States in the coming days.