End of Title 42 hasn’t stopped migrants’ push north to US from across the Americas

May 13, 2023, 9:23 AM | Updated: 1:04 pm

A migrant woman, holding a baby, walks along the train tracks hoping to board a freight train headi...

A migrant woman, holding a baby, walks along the train tracks hoping to board a freight train heading north, in Huehuetoca, Mexico, Friday, May 12, 2023, the day after U.S. pandemic-related asylum restrictions called Title 42 were lifted. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

(AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — For weeks, Solangel Contreras raced.

The Venezuelan migrant and her family of 22 trudged through the dense jungles of the Darien Gap and hopped borders across Central America.

They joined thousands of other migrants from across the Hemisphere in a scramble to reach the United States-Mexico border and request asylum.

They raced, unsure what changing migratory rules and the end of a pandemic-era border restriction, Title 42, would mean for their chances at a new life in the U.S.

But after missing that cutoff, robbed in Guatemala and crossing into Mexico shortly after the program ended Thursday night, Contreras, 33, had only one certainty in her mind: “We’re going to keep going.”

Confusion has rippled from the U.S.-Mexico border to migrant routes across the Americas, as migrants scramble to understand complex and ever-changing policies. And while Title 42 has come to an end, the flow of migrants headed north has not.

From the rolling mountains and jungles in Central America to the tops of trains roaring through Mexico, migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Nicaragua, Ecuador and beyond push forward on their journeys.

“We’ve already done everything humanly possible to get where we are,” Contreras said, resting in a park near a river dividing Mexico and Guatemala.

The problem, say experts, is that while migration laws are changing, root causes pushing people to flee their countries in record numbers only stretch on.

“It doesn’t appear to be the case that this is going to curb the push or pull factors for migration from Central America, South America and other parts of the world,” said Falko Ernst, senior analyst for International Crisis Group in Mexico. “The incentives for people to flee and seek refuge in safer havens in the United States are still in place.”

For Contreras, that push came after her brother was killed in Ecuador for not paying extorsions to a criminal group. The family had been living in a small coastal town in the south after fleeing economic crisis in Venezuela two years earlier.

Others, like 25-year-old migrant Gerardo Escobar left in search of a better future after struggling to make ends meet in Venezuela like Contreras’ family.

Escobar trekked along train tracks Friday morning just outside Mexico City, with 60 other migrants, including families and small children. They hoped to climb aboard a train migrants have used for decades to carry them on their dangerous journey.

Escobar was among many to say he had no clue what the end of Title 42 would mean, and he didn’t particularly care.

“My dream is to get a job, eat well, help my family in Venezuela,” he said. “My dream is to move forward.”

Despite misinformation prompting a rush to the border last week, analysts and those providing refuge to migrants said that they don’t expect new policies to radically stem the flow of migrants.

Title 42 allowed authorities to use a public health law to rapidly expel migrants crossing over the border, denying them the right to seek asylum. U.S. officials turned away migrants more than 2.8 million times under the order.

New rules strip away that ability to simply expel asylum seekers, but add stricter consequences to those not going through official migratory channels. Migrants caught crossing illegally will not be allowed to return for five years and can face criminal prosecution if they do.

The Biden administration has also set caps on the amount of migrants allowed to seek asylum.

At the same time, Biden is likely to continue American pressure on Mexico and other countries to make it harder for migrants to move north.

Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard said they don’t agree with the Biden administration’s decision to continue to put up migratory barriers.

“Our position is the opposite, but we respect their (US) jurisdiction,” Ebrard said.

Yet in a news briefing on Friday, he announced Mexico would carry out speedier deportations, and that it would no longer give migrants papers to cross through Mexico.

While the new rules likely won’t act as a strong deterrent, Ebrard and the head of a migrant shelter in Guatemala said they saw a drop in the number of migrants they encountered immediately following the rush on the U.S. border. Though the shelter leader said numbers have been slowly picking up.

Still, migrants continued to make it across the U.S. border, even as the new rules were announced. At a cemetery near Roma, Texas, about 60 migrants who had crossed the Rio Bravo were waiting to be processed around midnight. They included a large group of Chinese migrants who huddled for cover under a driving rain.

Another member of the group, a Guatemalan who left her country to escape an abusive husband, crossed the river with her four-year-old son. With the rules changing, she was unsure if she’d qualify for any asylum help.

Ernst, of International Crisis Group, warned that such measures could make the already deadly journey even more dangerous.

“You’ll see an increase in populations that remain vulnerable for criminal groups to prey on, to recruit from and make a profit from,” he said. “It could just feed into the hands of these criminal groups.”

Meanwhile, Contreras continues trucking forward alongside many other migrants, even with no clear pathway forward and little information about what awaits them at the border.

It’s worth it, she said, to give a better life to small children traveling with them.

“We’ve fought a lot for them (the kids),” she said. “All we want is to be safe, a humble home where they can study, where they can eat well. We’re not asking for much. We’re just asking for peace and safety.”


Associated Press journalists contributed from Marco Ugarte in Huehuetoca, Mexico, Edgar H. Clemente in Tapachula, Mexico, Mark Stevenson in Mexico City, and Colleen Long in Washington. Janetsky reported from Mexico City.


FILE - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, left, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator ...

Associated Press

Can a Medicaid plan that requires work succeed? First year of Georgia experiment is not promising

ATLANTA (AP) — By now, Georgia officials expected their new Medicaid plan, the only one in the nation with a work requirement, to provide health insurance to 25,000 low-income residents and possibly tens of thousands more. But a year since its launch, Pathways to Coverage has roughly 4,300 members, much lower than what state officials […]

33 minutes ago

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at a news conference following a me...

Associated Press

Treason and espionage cases are rising in Russia since the war in Ukraine began

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — When Maksim Kolker’s phone rang at 6 a.m., and the voice on the other end said his father had been arrested, he thought it was a scam to extort money. A day earlier, he had taken his father, prominent Russian physicist Dmitry Kolker, to the hospital in his native Novosibirsk, when […]

58 minutes ago

Debris from the Titan submersible, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic, is...

Associated Press

The first Titanic voyage in 14 years is happening in the wake of submersible tragedy. Hopes are high

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The company that owns the salvage rights to the Titanic is undertaking its first expedition to the ship’s wreckage in years, and those involved in the mission said they have both heavy hearts and lofty goals for a trip happening a year after a submersible disaster involving another firm killed five […]

60 minutes ago

Associated Press

Donald Trump appeared to be the target of an assassination attempt. Here’s what to know

WASHINGTON (AP) — What began as a jubilant rally Saturday for Donald Trump days before he becomes the official Republican presidential nominee ended in mere minutes with the former president bloodied and a suspected would-be assassin shot dead by the Secret Service. There was also one spectator killed and two others who were critically injured […]

1 hour ago

FILE - President John F. Kennedy waves from his car in a motorcade approximately one minute before ...

Associated Press

Four US presidents were assassinated; others were targeted, as were presidential candidates

WASHINGTON (AP) — Before Saturday’s apparent attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump, there have been multiple instances of political violence targeting U.S. presidents, former presidents and major party presidential candidates. A look at some of the assassinations and attempted assassinations that have occurred since the nation’s founding in 1776: ABRAHAM LINCOLN, the 16th president […]

3 hours ago

U.S. Secret Service agents converge to cover Republican presidential candidate former President Don...

Associated Press

AP PHOTOS: Shooting at Trump rally in Pennsylvania

This collection of photos shows the aftermath of a shooting at former President Donald Trump’s rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. The former president, his ear covered in blood from what he said was a gunshot, was quickly pulled away by Secret Service agents and his campaign said he was “fine.” A local prosecutor said […]

3 hours ago

End of Title 42 hasn’t stopped migrants’ push north to US from across the Americas