(NewsNation) — Border communities are expecting a deluge of migrants coming across the U.S. border ahead of the end of Title 42 restrictions.
Title 42 is a pandemic-era policy that allows agents working on the U.S border to expel migrants from certain countries back to their home countries without allowing them to seek asylum.
In El Paso, thousands of people crossed the border, with U.S. Border Patrol already reporting an average of 2,400 encounters a day over the weekend in the sector. According to one city dashboard, more than 1,200 migrants were released into the community Tuesday alone.
Residents told NewsNation they were seeing migrants on their properties in increased numbers, making some feel unsafe.
“These helicopters are just flying over our neighborhood and it almost feels like we’re at war,” Carmen Wilburn, an El Paso resident, said. “I don’t even want my granddaughter to stay here — it’s scary.”
Just down the street, Josie Martinez said she has gotten approached by undocumented men and women roaming her neighborhood.
“I was getting in my car and they asked me if I could please give them a ride to a motel or somewhere and I told them, I’m sorry, I can’t,” Martinez said.
It also doesn’t help that shelters are over capacity, and workers are desperate for extra space to open up.
“We have 175 men and that’s for a shelter that is comfortably handling 100-120,” John Martin, deputy director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless, said.
Many of these migrants are not evading Border Patrol, but are people who self-surrendered in an effort to seek asylum. A court ruling already loosened some Title 42 restrictions and family groups may qualify to come seek asylum even when single migrants with the same background would be expelled.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the border on Tuesday in light of the influx of crossings, but the visit was met with mixed reviews.
Border Patrol officials and lawmakers in states near the border have criticized Mayorkas and the Biden administration, saying they are losing control of the situation and failing to take the border situation seriously,
But it’s not just Republicans calling for change: El Paso’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar has called on the feds to send more resources for the unprecedented strain.
“Absolutely unsustainable and frankly an unacceptable situation,” Escobar said.
Efforts to pursue immigration reform in Congress include a bipartisan proposal that would increase funding for border security while also creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.
In the meantime, officials say the flood of crossings has overwhelmed Border Patrol, and shelters in areas like El Paso, where winter weather has made it hazardous for those released by border security to continue their journey.