The US/Mexican border is quiet now but the fear is, it could change quickly

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - For now, the number of asylum seekers passing through Tucson has reverted to what has become the norm, 500 to 700 a day.

It was feared the new normal maybe 1,500 to 1,600 a day during the surge which accompanied the end of Title 42, the health emergency declared during the Trump administration, which allowed Border Patrol to deny all asylum seekers due to Covid-19 in 2020.

That caused a severe backlog of cases and tens of thousands of migrants waiting on the Mexican side of the border.

When President Biden declared the health emergency over on May 11, 2023, the numbers jumped. Many thought an expedited process, called quick release or expedited release, would clean up the backlog.

But when the courts placed an injunction on the White House plans, the flow slowed to a more normal number. That has put social service agencies in a bind.

“If we advocate for the expedited releases, which is the more humane way to do it, then we recognize we’re going to have a crisis situation, said Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik, who has advocated for the migrants since they began to come to Tucson in 2014.

There are thousands of people waiting in Mexico for a chance to plead their case to be admitted to the u-s for a court hearing which will determine their fate. Hundreds of them have left the shelters in Nogales and have formed a line at the DeConcini port of entry. “Most of the families are sitting or sleeping on the ground, some of them have mattresses or are sleeping on cardboard,” said Joanna Williams, the Director of the Kino Border Initiative. “They really don’t have tents per-se.”

That means they have been sitting in the heat during the day and braving the cold during the night. Many families have children who have been in line for a week or more.

The Nogales Border Patrol is only processing 15 to 20 people a day, and more than 200 are in line.

Many of them were taken advantage of in the beginning, according to Williams.

“When the line first formed, people didn’t have access to a bathroom, so they were paying fifty cents each time they had to go to the bathroom,” she said. ‘Which adds up especially if you’re a family with kids, it adds up very quickly.”

The Mexican government now provides restroom facilities.

The concern in Tucson is what happens if the court lifts the injunction at a moment’s notice, which is often the case.

“If that injunction is lifted, we will see another surge and then once again, our ability to manage this at the local level will be stressed,” said Kozachik.

The current stress on the system is not the number of people coming across. In part, it’s just that social service agencies are on constant high alert. When things change, they will change rapidly, meaning there’s very little time to adapt.

“We are fortunate that we didn’t see the surge this weekend because every other holiday, regular citizens have been buying up the plane and bus reservations weeks in advance,” Kozachik said. “If that has happened this weekend, we would have run out of hotel space and we would have had street releases.”

Street releases are what everyone has been trying to avoid by adding more shelter space. With the lower numbers, for the time being, that’s not been an issue.

As long as the current rules for asylum seekers are in place, it’s likely not going to be the case in the near term. “So they’re basically applying a standard that says you’re presumed ineligible,” Williams said. “So the officer starts the screening assuming you don’t quality. Now the person has to overcome that assumption in order to prove their case.”

As long as those very stringent requirements remain in place, the number of people being allowed in the US will likely be fairly small and very manageable.

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