As the end of Title 42 approaches, migrants in El Paso are being urged to turn themselves in to immigration officials, leading to a sense of fear and confusion in the region.
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Outside of a homeless shelter in downtown El Paso, where hundreds of migrants have been camping out in recent weeks, fear and confusion hung in the air.
Men, women and children gathered under white Red Cross tarps that offered shade from the brutal 90-degree weather, sitting on cots and pieces of flat cardboard topped with donated sheets.
“I really don’t know what to do. I’m so afraid to turn myself in and get deported … I just want to be able to move forward and find my family,” said José, 41, who migrated from Venezuela and has been staying outside the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.
José, who asked that his full name not be used for fear of retribution from immigration authorities, was trying to reach his wife and 4-year-old daughter in Atlanta, after they were separated from him and allowed into the U.S. about three weeks ago.
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A day before a pandemic-era restriction that allowed the U.S. to rapidly turn back millions of migrants and asylum-seekers is set to lift, the city of El Paso is trying to abate a humanitarian crisis that is only expected to get worse. El Paso and other Texas cities have declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the policy change.
Immigration authorities have expelled migrants more than 2.8 million times under the policy, known as Title 42, according to data from Customs and Border Protection.
With the end of Title 42 after Thursday, immigration authorities and groups that help immigrant families handed out flyers encouraging migrants who crossed into the U.S. avoiding legal ports of entry to turn themselves in at a nearby processing center to be “processed by CBP officials and placed on the correct immigration path.”
Some of the migrants agonized over their next move, attempting to navigate the complex immigration process for a chance to remain in the U.S.
According to police sources in the city, due to Chicago’s sanctuary city policy, police precincts have turned into unofficial migrant shelters.
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