(NewsNation) — Officials are preparing for the end of Title 42, a public health policy born of the pandemic that allowed border officials to turn away migrants at the border to curb the spread of COVID-19. But daily crossings haven’t stopped and shelters in El Paso are at capacity.
The sector’s Border Patrol facility is maxed out, too.
More than 5,600 migrants remain in Border Patrol custody — in a facility suited to hold just 3,000 people. Customs and Border Patrol officials have warned that ending Title 42 could lead to a further influx of migrant arrivals.
The agency has used the policy to turn away more than 1 million people at the nation’s land crossings since Title 42 was invoked under former President Donald Trump in March 2020.
Wind and temperatures cold enough to produce flurries overnight on Monday led some migrants to sleep in a downtown El Paso, Texas, parking garage.
Elsewhere, migrants crossing through Yuma, Arizona’s Cocopah Gap faced similar conditions Tuesday, warming themselves over small, man-made fires as they waited at the border in 37-degree weather.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited El Paso Tuesday to assess the situation.
During his visit, Mayorkas said the administration is talking with the Mexican government, but declined to go into detail, the El Paso Times reported.
Border Patrol agents were instructed to process as many people as possible by any means necessary ahead of the visit, sources told NewsNation.
San Diego, California, Mayor Todd Gloria fears that unless Mayorkas and Congress can come together on immigration reform, the situation on either side of the border won’t improve, NewsNation’s affiliate Border Report said.
While some who cross the nation’s southern border have a family member or sponsor to help them, others spent recent days on the streets in near-freezing conditions.
City police said they made calls seeking accommodations for migrants without shelter, but so far have been unsuccessful.
In the meantime, a local ordinance that bars camping means migrants were forced to pack up and leave.
“I think the only thing that could help this situation is to help them in their own countries, but that’s something that we can’t do,” said El Paso resident Cristina Zapata. “So, for now, all we can do is just feed them and make sure they’re OK.”
Zapata handed out coffee and bags of McDonald’s food at one of the migrant camps Tuesday. Groups of volunteers have dwindled since the summer, but the need remains, she said.
“They just want to go and get to their families,” Zapata said. “That’s all they want. So if people would come and help, maybe all these people could leave. But no one comes and helps, so they have to stay.”
El Paso County has recognized that need. The county recently announced it would consider expanding a Migrant Support Services Center that opened in response to the last wave, to a larger location.
One group from Nicaragua told NewsNation they had no money for food and hoped to work in the U.S. — an option Zapata says they should have.
“If my kids were ever in this situation, I would want someone to help them, you know,” she said.
The migrants who have been released by Border Patrol have been processed by agents and are now free to continue their journey.
Many of them will be required to contact an ICE office when they reach their destination. Others were given court dates, which could be scheduled for two to five years into future.