The US government has lifted a controversial immigration policy, known as Title 42, which has blocked migrants caught at the US-Mexico border from seeking asylum since 2020. The Donald Trump-era policy expired on Thursday as the border witnessed around 60,000 people waiting to cross into the US from Mexico, according to a report in the BBC.
The policy allowed US authorities to send people back "without an asylum hearing", citing the Covid-19 pandemic as justification.
Several residents of El Paso in Texas stated that they rushed to the border ahead of the policy change. They told the BBC that they were unclear about the new guidelines and had been bewildered by rumours and disinformation. Among them is 24-year-old Jon Uzcategui and Esmaily from Venezuela, who said that traffickers and other migrants warned them they would be deported if they were seen at the border, which convinced them to cross the barricades dividing El Paso from Mexico.
Mr Uzcategui told BBC, "We trusted them, and were starting to move into the US. But we were stopped at a roadblock. The agents told us that (what we heard) was all false. All the migrants were talking about 11 May. But there were lots of rumours. We just knew something was changing." They were allowed entry once their asylum claim was heard.
Meanwhile, officials at the US border communities continue to ask for assistance in addressing the needs of the migrants. This comes after makeshift encampments have been increasing rapidly and social services are being pushed to the brink.
On Wednesday, a staff member from New York Mayor Eric Adams' office stated that the city is "taking in up to 1,000 migrants every day", as reported by the New York Post. He added that once Title 42 is lifted, the number could increase drastically.
"We're seeing 800 to 1,000 people arrive, right, in recent days, when they arrive in multiple buses, and then by airlines, we can see over 1,000 people a day arrive," said Manuel Castro, the Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs.
He further told the outlet, "It's hard to know how many of them would end up in New York - will be bused to New York - could be upwards of 12,000, possibly. It's unknown how many will make it up to New York, but at this rate, a lot of people are being bused here. So I think you'll probably see a good portion of them come here unless something changes."
As per the BBC, several new initiatives announced by the Joe Biden administration are intended to persuade people to not enter the country unlawfully and to pursue the asylum procedure.
These include expanding the use of a Customs and Border Patrol-run app for scheduling asylum appointments as well as the development of regional processing facilities in South America.
According to officials, anybody who enters the US illegally will be deported, prohibited from entering for at least five years and deemed ineligible for asylum. Such measures were not taken in the previous policy and therefore it allowed migrants to make repeat attempts to cross the border.