EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The U.S. government has begun expelling to Mexico migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who enter the country illegally, as the Biden administration implements a new remote asylum application process for citizens of those countries.

Federal officials in El Paso have not expelled any of those migrants to Juarez, Mexico, where church-run shelters are already at near capacity due to the permanence of Venezuelan nationals in the city and a steady stream of new arrivals from the Mexican countryside and Latin America. Instead, border agents are flying and busing them to other cities for Title 42 expulsions.

“Here in the El Paso Sector, we’re still performing Title 42 expulsions on Venezuelans, Mexican citizens and those from Northern Triangle of Central America,” said Carlos A. Rivera, a spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol. As far as Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans, “we’re performing those expulsions at other sectors through our decompression flights and busing them to other ports of entry, and that’s where we are doing the delayed expulsions under Title 42.”

The expulsions go hand-in-hand with a new program the Biden administration announced on Jan. 6 directing Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans to use the CBP One mobile app to apply for asylum. The program requires applicants to have a financial sponsor in the United States, meet security and other criteria. Up to 30,000 citizens of those nations came come into the country per month.

Mexican officials on Thursday said they are already assisting migrants stuck in Juarez to locate and understand the online application.

“Today we saw several persons access CBP One and fill out their applications,” said Enrique Valenzuela, head of the Chihuahua Population Council which runs the Migrant Assistance Center in Juarez. “We saw some of them receive a notification that their applications were received and, in some cases, they were assigned a date and time to present themselves at the Paso del Norte” U.S. port of entry.

Juarez is mainly receiving from U.S. authorities single adults apprehended after crossing the border illegally to look for jobs and wire money to family members in their home countries. These economic migrants are mostly from Southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The U.S. Border Patrol also reports continued encounters with groups of Ecuadoran and Colombian migrants in the El Paso Sector.

Advocates give nod to new CBP processing facility, but still want immigration reform

Immigrant advocates in El Paso on Tuesday toured the new U.S. Customs and Border Protection soft-sided processing center in Northeast El Paso. Some were awed by the sheer size of the 150,000 square-foot tent-like structure – which remains mostly vacant due to the dramatic drop in migrant encounters of the past three weeks.

The new soft-sided CBP processing facility in Northeast El Paso. (Border Report)

“It’s all clean. Everything looks brand new: It’s got that brand new smell,” said Patrick Giuliani, policy director for El Paso’s Hope Border Institute. “It looks like they are prepared for the large numbers they’re predicting they will be seeing with those changes.”

The facility has a large kitchen and living areas and it will be contractors — not U.S. Border Patrol agents — who will be serving meals. That is expected to allow more agents to remain on patrol duty during spikes in migrant processing.

The federal government fast-tracked the facility as daily encounters swelled above 2,000 per day in early October and mid-December. But the cold weather, the Supreme Court halting the end of Title 42 expulsions and the arrival of the Texas Army National Guard – which set up barbwire and military vehicles along the Rio Grande – have brought the numbers down dramatically. Only 762 migrants were in CBP custody on Thursday, according to the City of El Paso’s online migrant dashboard.

Giuliani said federal officials are maintaining the 1,000-capacity facility at the ready in case the court finally strikes down Title 42.  

“Migration numbers always go up and down. We’ve seen slow-downs, we’ve had spikes. Having this infrastructure available is good (preparation for the future),” he said. “In El Paso, we saw street releases when the numbers spiked up and we didn’t have the resources to give people a place to be processed safely and securely. So, this expansion in capacity to receive more people with dignity and respect is welcome.”

However, Giuliani said reforming America’s immigration laws is the advocates’ priority. He decried the newly green-lighted expulsions of Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans.

“While we are excited to see new pathways for access to the United States, we are not happy they come with sacrificing other people’s well-being or access to the system,” he said. “The fact this puts up new barriers and continues to uphold Title 42 is not the promise we were given about a humane immigration reform.”