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Texas border updates: Catholic Charities helps migrants stuck in Houston

Title 42 health order expired Thursday night. Now, the U.S. will return to fully enforcing Title 8 to expel those arriving at the border unlawfully.

HOUSTON — The end of coronavirus restrictions on asylum that have allowed the U.S. to quickly expel migrants at the southern border for the last three years has now expired.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Title 42 health order expired at 10:59 p.m. CT Thursday. Now, the U.S. has returned to fully enforcing Title 8.

Starting Friday, asylum-seekers will be interviewed by immigration officers. Those who are found to have a “credible fear” of being persecuted in their home countries can stay in the U.S. until a final determination is made.

That can take years. While some people are detained while their asylum process plays out, the vast majority are freed into the United States with notices to appear in immigration court or report to immigration authorities.

One key concern is that migrants might feel they have a greater chance now to get asylum in the U.S. so more will attempt to enter and overwhelm authorities' ability to care for and process them. That could take U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents away from other responsibilities such as looking for smugglers and facilitating the billions of dollars of trade that crosses the southern border.

What you need to know

Live updates on Title 42 ending

  • May 12, noon --  A local charity, Catholic Charities, is helping migrants bussed to Houston reunite with their families in and out of the state but helping to pay for plane tickets, housing and other needs.
  • May 11, 6:30 a.m. --  Some of those who are entering the United States don't have the money for a bus ticket to their final destination and are stuck in Brownsville, according to a report from KHOU 11 reporter Anayeli Ruiz. 
  • May 11, 5:30 a.m.  --  The policy that allowed the federal government to quickly remove people entering the U.S. ended six and a half hours ago, but now, there's a new legal challenge.
  • May 11, 5 a.m. --  Catholic Charities says a bus from El Paso is expected to arrive in Houston in the next hour or so. These are people who recently crossed the border and have been processed by Border Patrol. They’re allowed to stay in the U.S. ahead of their immigration court date.

    Once they’ve been processed at the Houston transfer center, we’re told they’ll go to Bush Airport to catch flights.

    New York, Chicago, and Houston are the top destinations.

AP reporter Valerie Gonzalez shared a look at the port of entry at Brownsville where the scene appeared to be calm as Title 42 expired.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who was at the border in Brownsville as the policy expired, called it "horrific and cruel."

  • May 11, 7:53 p.m. -- With just over three hours to go until Title 42 expires, the border patrol union president says his agents feel defeated. KHOU 11's Anayeli Ruiz is at the border, covering the end of Title 42.
  • May 11, 6:53 p.m. -- KHOU 11 Reporter Anayeli Ruiz spoke with some immigrants who crossed the border seeking a better life.
  • May 11, 4:13 p.m. -- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner provided a statement on how the city is handling the influx of people coming from the border:

“The City of Houston is considering options to provide support, but lacks sufficient resources to meet the overwhelming needs of the migrant community.  

Currently, we are waiting to see what resources the federal government will provide before determining how and if we can assist.  

In the meantime, we are grateful for our nonprofit community and partners like Catholic Charities and Casa Juan Diego that are receiving a limited number of buses, but are also equally under-resourced and overwhelmed.  We hope the federal government can provide the needed resources for us to create a structured plan to fully assist.”

  • May 11, 12:30 p.m. -- Texas Gov. Abbot tweeted that President Biden has abandoned his constitutional duty to protect America by ending Title 42.
  • May 10 -- Gov. Abbott bused about 50 migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris's home at the US Naval Observatory.

What is Title 42?

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the coronavirus restrictions on asylum are often referred to as Title 42, because the authority comes from Title 42 of a 1944 public health law that allows curbs on migration in the name of protecting public health.

In March 2020, the Trump administration invoked the law to cut down on border crossings as the COVID-19 pandemic got underway. Basically, Title 42 was used to override the immigration law that allows people to ask for asylum after crossing the border illegally.

The administration argued taking asylum seekers into custody at federal facilities would help spread COVID.

What does Title 42 expiring mean?

After Title 42 ends the U.S. goes back to its previous policy, Title 8. That means people who try to cross the border multiple times will be penalized, facing up to two years in prison if they have already been removed or deported from the United States.

Under Title 42, experts say there was an increase in people making multiple attempts. Now, migrants are being asked to not cross the border and instead use an app, CBP One, to apply for asylum. However, users report that the app is filled with glitches, causing lots of frustration.

What changes when Title 42 expires?

According to the VERIFY team, under Title 42, many asylum seekers were returned back to Mexico or their home country without having their case heard, the National Immigration Forum explains. Now, with its expiration, the federal government will resume regularly processing legal claims for asylum at ports of entry beginning Friday, May 12. 

Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who meet the definition of a refugee, and are already in the United States or are seeking admission at a point of entry. A person seeking asylum protection must apply for it within one year of their arrival to the U.S.

The federal government will also reimpose stricter penalties for illegally crossing the border under Title 8. Those penalties can include deportation, at least a five-year ban on reentry and criminal prosecution, DHS and the State Department say.

These penalties were not enforced under Title 42, according to the National Immigration Forum.

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