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Tens of thousands of people at the US-Mexico border await the end of the limits

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EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Migrants along the U.S. border with Mexico sought shelter from the cold early Wednesday as restrictions that prevented many from seeking asylum in the United States remained in place in- beyond their intended end.

Pandemic-era limits on border crossings had been set to expire Wednesday — and the federal government has opposed an effort by some conservative-leaning states to keep them in place. But hours before they are set to rise, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court not to withdraw them before Christmas.

Just after midnight, all was quiet on the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso where the Texas National Guard was stationed – although thousands filled shelters and sought refuge along the border as legal wrangling unfolds . Hundreds of immigrants first gathered near the accordion wire set up by the guard, but left after being told by US officials to come to a gate to be processed in small groups.

First Sergeant Suzanne Ringle said a woman gave birth in the crowd by the river and was attended to by Border Patrol agents. She added that many children were among the crowd.

Jhorman Morey, a 38-year-old mechanic from Venezuela, said he was awaiting a decision on asylum restrictions before attempting to cross into the United States. He warmed his hands by a campfire with half a dozen other Venezuelan migrants on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, as other migrants waded through shallow water towards a gate in the fence American border.

“I want them to decide” the public health rule known as Title 42, said Morey, who arrived in the Mexican city of Juarez, across the border from El Paso, he six weeks ago. He now rarely eats after having exhausted his savings.

Hundreds of migrants lined up in Juarez, hoping restrictions would be lifted and they would be let through. Others slide along the concrete embankments of the Rio Grande. A nearby shelter reached capacity on Tuesday evening, stranding many people outside.

In Tijuana, which has around 5,000 migrants staying in more than 30 shelters and numerous other room and apartment rentals, the border was quiet on Tuesday evening as word spread among potential asylum seekers that nothing had changed. Layered, razor-topped walls rising 30 feet along the border with San Diego make the area intimidating to illegal crossings.

Under the restrictions, authorities deported asylum seekers inside the United States 2.5 million times and turned back most people who sought asylum at the border, on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19 under Title 42.

Immigration advocates said the restrictions run counter to U.S. and international obligations to people fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution, and the pretext is outdated as coronavirus treatments s improve. They sued to end the use of Title 42; a federal judge sided with them in November and set the December decision. 21 deadline.

Conservative-leaning states have appealed to the Supreme Court, warning that an increase in migration weigh on public services and cause an “unprecedented calamity” which they said the federal government had no plan to deal with.

In response, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary order to keep the restrictions in place.

While the federal government then asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to reject the states’ effort, it also acknowledged that ending the restrictions would likely result in “a temporary disruption and increase in illegal border crossings.”

Although the Wednesday expiration date was set weeks ago, the US government has called for more time to prepare – while saying it has sent more resources to the border and claiming the solution is not to extend the rule indefinitely.

About 23,000 officers are currently deployed on the southern border, according to the White House. The Biden administration said it sent more border patrol processing coordinators, more surveillance and increased security at ports of entry.

If the Supreme Court acts before Friday, the government wants the restrictions to be in place until the end of December. 27. If the court acts on Friday or later, the government wants the limits to remain until the second business day following such an order.

As the decision was made, pressure grew in communities on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

In El Paso, Democratic Mayor Oscar Leeser warned that shelters across the border in Juarez were packed, with around 20,000 migrants ready to cross into the United States.

The city has rushed to expand its capacity to accommodate more migrants by converting large buildings into shelters, as the Red Cross provides 10,000 beds.

“We will continue to be prepared for whatever happens,” Leser said.

Members of the Texas National Guard, deployed by the state to El Paso this week, used barbed wire to cordon off a breach in the border fence along a bank of the Rio Grande that has become a popular crossing point for migrants wading through shallow waters to approach immigration .officials in recent days. They used a loudspeaker to announce in Spanish that it is illegal to cross there.

Texas said it was sending 400 National Guard members to the border town after local officials declared a state of emergency. Leeser said the statement was largely aimed at protecting vulnerable migrants, while a statement from the Texas National Guard said the deployment included forces used to “push back and turn back illegal immigrants”.

In San Diego, a sense of normalcy has returned to the country’s busiest border crossing despite the uncertainty of the past few days. The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce said it learned from U.S. Customs and Border Protection that the more modern western half of the airport-sized crosswalk will reopen to travelers bound for the United States at 6 a.m. Wednesday. in the morning. The lanes, which lead to an upscale shopping mall. , have been closed to almost all migrants since early 2020 to allow for Title 42 processing.

The reopening comes “just in time for last-minute shoppers, visiting family members and those working on vacation,” the chamber wrote to members. He said he does not know when the area will reopen to travelers to Mexico from the United States.

At a church-affiliated shelter in El Paso, a few blocks from the border, the Reverend. Michael Gallagher said local faith leaders have tried to pool resources and open up empty space. On Tuesday, a gymnasium at the Sacred Heart Church housed 200 migrants, mostly women and children. Outside the church early Wednesday, dozens of people were sleeping rough.

Title 42 allows the government to deport asylum seekers of any nationality, but it disproportionately affects people from countries from which Mexico has agreed to take citizens: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and, more recently , Venezuela, in addition to Mexico.


Santana reported from Washington, DC Juan Lozano in Houston and Alicia Fernández in Ciudad Juarez contributed to this report.