EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexican authorities early Thursday began removing more than 100 tents from a camp along the Rio Grande set up last month by Venezuelan migrants hoping to seek asylum in the U.S.
Mexican officials told Border Report that the tents were empty as many migrants abandoned the camp between Wednesday afternoon and early Thursday morning, crossed the border, and surrendered to U.S. authorities on the other side of the river.
The move came as a light freeze fell over the camp and just two days after a U.S. federal judge ordered the Biden administration to do away with public order Title 42, which has been used to expel 1.6 million migrants in the past two years.
The judge subsequently gave the administration five weeks to comply and the Department of Homeland Security said it would continue to enforce Title 42 for the time being.
The camp became home to more than 900 Venezuelan asylum-seekers stranded in Juarez, Mexico, after the Biden administration on Oct. 12 made them eligible for Title 42 expulsions.
Before that, thousands of Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Colombian and Ecuadorian asylum-seekers streamed from Mexico into El Paso in September and early October, overwhelming immigration processing center capabilities and prompting local authorities to expend resources and personnel to stem a humanitarian crisis.
Migrants interviewed by Border Report on Wednesday said they were weighing their options; some said they would wait the five additional weeks. But the climate and a light freeze that fell on the camp that night and early Thursday morning forced their hand. That’s when the bulk of the crossings reportedly took place.
On Thursday, Juarez Human Rights Office Director Santiago Rodriguez told Border Report that 600 migrants had left the camp in the past 24 hours and that some 350 remained by the river.
“Yes, most of them crossed. They all crossed yesterday,” said Edward Acevedo, one of the migrants who refused to go. “The cold is very harsh. The people turned themselves in mostly because of the cold. They have kids and the cold is unbearable.”
The Border Patrol late Thursday confirmed an “elevated flow” of migrants primarily from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Colombia and Cuba beginning Wednesday afternoon. A Border Patrol official said the El Paso Processing Center has had an average of 2,400 migrants in holding inside its main buildings and in overflow areas.
“The El Paso Sector continues to process individuals safely, efficiently, and effectively at the border and continues to expel migrants under Title 42 authority, and those who cannot be expelled under Title 42 and who do not have a legal basis to remain in the United States will be placed in removal proceedings under the authority of Title 8,” the agency said in a statement.