There are roughly 16,000 vulnerable migrants in Tijuana waiting to enter the United States. But 11 days before the gates will be opened allowing them to seek asylum, U.S. officials haven’t told their Mexican counterparts exactly how they plan to process all of those people at the border.

“The migrants are going to want to leave the shelters and get in line at the port of entry,” said Enrique Lucero, the head of Tijuana’s migrant affairs department. “They are going to want to wait for their turn. They will sleep there, eat there until their turn is up.”

Since the start of COVID-19, the U.S. has used the controversial public health order Title 42 to turn away asylum seekers at the border nearly 3 million times, according to data from Customs and Border Protection. That includes vulnerable asylum seekers, who never got a chance to plead their case to an immigration judge.

Title 42 is set to be lifted May 11. But without clear guidance from the United States, Tijuana officials anticipate chaos.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced a broad series of policies set to replace Title 42. They include cracking down on people who enter the country illegally and creating new legal pathways into the country.

Another part of the plan is for Latin American countries to stop migrants from reaching the border in the first place. So U.S. officials will open processing centers in Colombia and Guatemala where migrants can go to see if they are eligible for asylum in the U.S. without having to go to the border.


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