Border crossing in Nogales is quiet as asylum seekers wait to hear what's next for Title 42

Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2022 - 5:56pm
Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2023 - 3:08pm
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Title 42, the pandemic-era restriction on asylum at the border, was supposed to end by court order today. But the Supreme Court put a temporary hold on that plan, siding with a group of 19 GOP-led states, including Arizona, trying to keep it in place.

That meant at the border crossing in Nogales, the DeConcini Port of Entry was mostly quiet Wednesday. A lineup of border commuters and visitors snaked past the turnstile. But there were almost no asylum seekers. 

Chelsea Sachau, an attorney with the legal aid group Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, had spent the last several weeks preparing for the change and keeping clients updated on new developments. 

"It seems like today is the same as any other day as it has been the last couple of years, but that’s sadder, because we had had a lot of hope that today would be the date that our asylum system could finally go back to normal," she said. 

Sachau broke the news to a group of more than 300 asylum seekers on Tuesday at the Kino Border Initiative, an aid center and shelter in Nogales, Sonora. 

One was a single mom of two named Ilda. We’re not using her full name because she still hasn’t started her case. She says she left Guatemala with her two young daughters three months ago, fleeing a violent relationship. 

She says one of her two daughters needs special medical care for what she suspects is epilepsy, both need to get back to school. Being stuck in Nogales, she’s said not sure how to get either done. She’d hoped the end of Title 42 would give her the chance to join her sister in Colorado. Now, she said she's not sure what to do if she's not able to get to the U.S. 

"I'm here with my two daughters, they're little, they are minors, and I have an obligation to protect them. And I feel incapable," she said in Spanish, tearing up. "I feel like I'm not in a position to ensure their rights — which is their security, their wellbeing, their health." 

The 19-state coalition argues lifting Title 42  will harm their states by allowing more people to enter the U.S. at the border. In addition to the temporary stay, they are asking to join the case and make those arguments in court. Monday's Supreme Court order placed a temporary hold on the termination of Title 42 and said it would make a larger ruling soon.

In response, the Biden administration asked the justices to allow Title 42 to end, arguing the public health justification it’s founded on isn’t there anymore. But it also asked that if the court makes a ruling to end the protocol this week, it should delay the termination until next week to allow border officers to prepare.