Texas attempting show of force as Title 42 nears expiration

Immigration

(NewsNation) — State troopers, National Guard soldiers and Border Patrol agents in Texas are trying to demonstrate a show of force at the U.S.-Mexico border, in hopes of slowing down an expected immigrant surge as the expiration of Title 42 looms.

Local and state officials in Texas are hoping the phasing out of Title 42, a COVID-era immigration policy that allows the United States to turn migrants away without letting them first seek asylum, will be delayed by federal courts.

If it isn’t delayed and the Biden administration is successful in ending it Monday, Texas is hoping its show of force on the Rio Grande River will continue to deter migrants from overwhelming border authorities.

“We’re trying to do these exercises as a deterrence factor so that way people don’t cross into the United States,” said Sgt. Erick Estrada of the Texas Department of Safety.

Estrada said Texas officials have been working with the Mexican government to prepare for an influx of migrants should Title 42 end Monday. Not that Title 42 was particularly effective, either; a record number of migrants were encountered at the border in April, breaking a record previously set in March.

Haitian families cross the border to El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Paul Ratje

Agents had 234,000 encounters with migrants in April. Half were released into the country, 113,000 were removed or expelled from the country, and of those turned away, 96,908 were expelled using Title 42.

Many migrants are repeat crossers because there are no legal consequences of being expelled under Title 42 authority. In April, about 28% were encountered at least once in the previous year.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates the number of migrant encounters could double or triple if Title 42 ends.

In Laredo, Texas, where authorities were attempting their show of force, border crossing can be a dangerous affair as migrants will try and swim across the Rio Grande River. Swift river currents create a risk of drowning and the cartels control all river crossing, presenting another form of danger.

“Not anyone can just cross the river. They have to use (cartel) services and it’s a full package,” Estrada said. “That includes stash houses and transportation.”

In the Rio Grande Valley three hours south, McAllen, Texas Mayor Javier Villalobos said the current situation is manageable, but fears if Title 42 were to end, border agents would become overwhelmed by migrants.

He also fears that migrants desperate for food, water and supplies could create a public safety issue in the community.

People even in our community will try to take advantage and of course people, if they’re hungry, will do whatever they need to eat,” Villalobos said. “That is something I don’t want to see in my city.”

Politicians in Washington, D.C., meanwhile, continue to punt on comprehensive immigration reform, instead engaging in political posturing and rhetoric.

The Biden administration allowed media to witness chained and shackled migrants being expelled from the United States via plane earlier this week, in an attempt to show it is going to be tougher on illegal immigration as it prepares to end Title 42.

A Haitian family crosses the border to El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Paul Ratje

In early May, the administration quietly stepped up the number of migrants, particularly Cubans and Nicaraguans, it was expelling from the U.S. under the powers afforded by Title 42.

Republican leaders have stepped up immigration rhetoric, accusing Democrats of using immigrants to change the demographics of the United States to secure election victories.

“What the left really wants to do is change the demographics of this country,” said Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters “They want to do that so they can consolidate power so they can never lose another election.”

Similar points have been echoed by ultra-conservative voice such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who said, “Demographic change is the key to the Democratic Party’s political ambitions. In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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