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Migrants in Mexico dismayed by continuation of U.S. border policy that restricts asylum

A federal judge in Louisiana blocked U.S. authorities from lifting Title 42, which since March 2020 has empowered U.S. agents to quickly turn back over a million migrants to Mexico and other countries.

Asylum-seeking migrants cross the Rio Bravo river in Ciudad Juarez
Asylum-seeking migrants are seen after crossing the Rio Bravo river to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents to request asylum in El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on May 20, 2022.
JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ/REUTERS
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MONTERREY, Mexico — For thousands of migrants who have waited for months in northern Mexico, Monday was supposed to mark the moment when the U.S. government finally dropped a pandemic-era policy that has largely prevented them from seeking asylum in the United States.

Instead, May 23 marked the latest setback for many migrants, after a federal judge in Louisiana blocked U.S. authorities from lifting the sweeping policy, known as Title 42, which since March 2020 has empowered U.S. agents to quickly turn back over a million migrants to Mexico and other countries.

Health authorities at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at the time it was needed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in crowded border facilities.

"First they said they were going to open the border to asylum claims, then they said they weren't," said Max Alexander Gonter, 24, who said he has spent nearly two years waiting in Mexico to seek asylum after fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras.

"I can't stand this anymore, I'm exhausted," he said, standing outside a migrant shelter in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey on Sunday.

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U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, came into office in January 2021 promising to undo the hardline immigration policies of his predecessor Donald Trump, but has so far struggled to keep campaign promises to change the system.

The continuation of Title 42 is the latest flip-flop in policy that has dismayed migrants.

Another Trump-era program known as Remain in Mexico, which forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexico as their cases wind through U.S. courts, was terminated by Biden early in his presidency only to be reinstated after a court ruling in August 2021.

Pablo, a Mexican migrant who declined to give his last name due to security concerns, said he fled his cartel-controlled town in the bloody state of Tamaulipas to avoid forced recruitment into a drug trafficking operation.

He showed scars on his forearms and back as evidence of the violence in Mexico that he hopes to escape — when he is able to seek asylum.

"I just want to live a normal, peaceful life," he said.

(Reporting by Laura Gottesdiener in Monterrey; editing by Chris Reese.)

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