Migrants prepared to cross the border Friday into El Paso, hours after pandemic-era restrictions were lifted. Once across, men and women, some in hoodies and sweaters to guard against the chilly desert night air, walked in single file to a U.S. Border Patrol van. A man and a woman held hands, the woman covering her nose and mouth with her sleeve as dust filled the air. About two hours after the end of Title 42, dozens of migrants had already boarded three white school buses in small groups, Border Patrol vans partially obscuring the media’s ability to see them. The bus was flanked by members of the National Guard and Border Patrol in green and camouflage uniforms. After the van left, border authorities closed the outermost chain-link fence and sealed it with a heavy lock. Homeland Security officials predicted 10,000 migrants per day would try to cross into the U.S. after the lifting of Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that immediately expelled migrants millions of times without providing asylum hearings. The numbers already surpassed that, with 11,000 apprehended on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. With Title 42 ending, thousands of migrants waiting in Mexico for a chance to enter the U.S. will be subject to Title 8, the section of U.S. law dealing with immigration and nationality that was used at the borders before the pandemic.
At El Paso’s Gate 42, in the minutes and hours after Title 42 was lifted, the initial processing of people from the Mexican side of the border appeared mostly quiet and orderly, except for a heavy media presence. A few buses and a van kicked up thick clouds of dust as the vehicles transported people to be processed in the U.S. From 300 to 400 migrants had been waiting on the Mexican side of the border wall near Gate 42 in Ciudad Juárez, a Customs and Border Protection official said earlier.