STORY: Amid confusion and uncertainty, the Biden administration on Friday began implementing a sweeping policy shift at the U.S.-Mexico border, as a COVID-era order - known as Title 42 - that allowed the swift expulsion of many migrants expired and new asylum restrictions took effect.
Facing concerns that the end of a 3-year-old order could strain U.S. border facilities to the breaking point, U.S. officials were keeping a close eye on the movements of migrants that had already reached record numbers in recent days.
Jean-Pierre: ““…we got a robust plan in place to humanely manage the border through enforcement, deterrence and diplomacy.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the plan at a press briefing on Friday.
Jean-Pierre: “We've been very clear. We want a system that's humane, that's orderly. That's what the president said on the first day that he walked into this administration putting forth a piece of legislation that is comprehensive.”
Several last-minute court actions added to questions about how President Joe Biden's reworked border strategy will play out, with advocates filing a legal challenge to the new asylum regulation as it was enacted.
Though a chaotic race to U.S. border ports of entry on Thursday appeared to have given way to relative calm on Friday, there was a sense of confusion among some migrants.
Communities along the border have worried for weeks that they might be strained by newly-arrived asylum seekers awaiting processing or immigration court dates. But Mayor Oscar Leeser of El Paso, Texas, says so far things have been fairly quiet….
“We've actually have had a very smooth transition as Title 42 has lapsed and we've gone to Title 8. And that's really because we had a lot of preparation, we were ready, we were prepared and, you know, we were preparing for the unknown and we'll still continue to do that."
Meanwhile, Venezuelan migrant Juan Pavon - currently in Mexico heeding the Biden administration's calls to request asylum via the mobile app, CBP One - spoke to Reuters about the urgency of the moment:
“That is the result of the desperation in which migrants live, the result of the situation of vulnerability that we have, where we arrive here and we want to leave this country quickly because our lives are in danger and we have many fears, and so what we see is kind of an immediate solution.”
Advocates argue the new regulation, put in place by Biden's Democratic administration to curb illegal crossings, resembles restrictions imposed by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, that they had successfully blocked in court.
Tens of thousands of migrants this week waded through rivers, and climbed walls and embankments onto U.S. territory.
According to the National Border Patrol Council, around 25,000 migrants were being held in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities near the border on Friday, down slightly from record highs earlier in the week.