CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Even before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday chose to uphold a measure aimed at deterring illegal border crossings, hundreds of migrants in northern Mexico took matters into their own hands to slip into the United States.
The controversial pandemic-era measure known as Title 42 was set to expire on Dec. 21, but the last-minute legal stay threw border policy into disarray and prompted a growing number of immigrants to decide they had nothing to lose by crossing anyway.
After spending days in chilly border towns, groups of immigrants from Venezuela and other countries targeted by Title 42 chose to run for it rather than sit out the uncertainty of the tug of war unfolding in US courts.
“We ran and hid until we got there,” said Jonathan, a Venezuelan immigrant who crossed the border from the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, Texas with his wife and five children, ages 3 to 16, Monday night.
Giving only his first name and speaking on the phone, Jonathan said he had already spent several months in Mexico and did not want to enter the United States illegally.
But the thought of failing after a journey that took his family through the dangerous Darien jungles of Panama, up Central America and into Mexico was more than he could bear.
“This will be the last straw to get here, and then they send us back to Venezuela,” he told Reuters.
On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court granted a request by a group of Republican state attorneys general to delay a judge’s decision striking down Title 42. They argued that removing it would increase border crossings.
The court said it will hear arguments on whether the states can step in to protect Title 42 during the February session. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
Reuters photos showed migrants racing across a busy highway next to the border last week, one barefoot and carrying a small child — the kind of dangerous crossing that worries immigrant advocates.
“We are talking about people who come to seek asylum… and they still cross the border in very dangerous ways,” said Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights.
John Martin, deputy director at El Paso’s Homeless Opportunity Center, said the number of immigrants his shelter is taking in are increasingly people who have crossed illegally, including many Venezuelans.
“At one point, the majority was recorded; now I see it the other way around,” he said.
On Tuesday before the Supreme Court’s ruling, a Venezuelan immigrant in Ciudad Juarez who gave his name as Antonio said he was waiting to see if U.S. border surveillance would end, hoping to earn money in the United States to send home.
“If they don’t end Title 42,” he said, “we will continue to come in illegally.”
Elsewhere along the border, other migrants said they felt they had run out of options.
“We have no future in Mexico,” said Cesar, a Venezuelan immigrant from Tijuana who did not give his last name, explaining why he tried to cross the border fence into the United States once, and plans to try again. .
Reporting by Dana Beth Solomon in Mexico City and Jose Luis Gonzalez in Ciudad Juarez; Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Dave Graham and Jerry Doyle
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