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Migrants gather at a crossing into El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP) Migrants gather at a crossing into El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP)

Migrants gather at a crossing into El Paso, Texas, as seen from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Dec. 20, 2022. (AP)

Maria Ramirez Uribe
By Maria Ramirez Uribe April 5, 2023

U.S. policies, and other factors, lead to overcrowded conditions for migrants in Mexico

If Your Time is short

  • Experts say U.S. immigration policies — enacted under President Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden — have led to overcrowding and dangerous conditions for migrants in northern Mexican towns.

  • The Biden administration launched a parole program for immigrants from certain countries; applying for it requires immigrants to make an appointment with U.S. Customs and Border Protection using a phone app.

  • But limited appointment times and technical problems with the app have led to overcrowding in Mexican border towns as immigrants await their turns. Experts told PolitiFact that migrant shelters are full, leaving migrants on the streets begging for money to stay at cheap hotels.

A fire in a migrant center in a northern Mexican border city killed 39 immigrant men. Some of them were waiting for an appointment to apply for asylum in the U.S.; others were sent to Mexico after they reached the U.S. seeking entry. Officials had turned them away, citing Title 42, a U.S. public health policy.

The March 27 incident in Ciudad Juárez led Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, to question the effect U.S. immigration policies have on the Mexican side of the border. 

"The deadly fire in Juárez should never have happened. Title 42 and other Trump-era holdovers are forcing migrants into dangerous, overcrowded conditions in Mexico," Castro tweeted March 28. "The Biden admin needs to withdraw its asylum ban and work w/Mexico to protect migrants on both sides of the border."

Castro was referring to a proposed Biden administration rule that would limit immigrants ability to seek asylum at the southern U.S. border.

We wondered whether Castro was right about the effect "Title 42 and other Trump-era holdovers" have on migrants in Mexico waiting to be allowed into the United States. Experts said U.S. border policies have led to overcrowding in Mexico, but that Trump-era policies are not solely to blame. New policies from President Joe Biden have increased overcrowding; so have Mexican policies.

"In a way, you could blame all three: Trump, Biden and the Mexican authorities almost equally," said Howard Campbell, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Texas at El Paso.

"On the Mexican side, it's been very, very chaotic and extremely dangerous for the migrants," Campbell said. "The problem is that the Biden administration hasn't been a lot better."

A Castro spokesperson pointed PolitiFact to a series of articles detailing how the U.S. public health policy created overcrowding in Mexican border towns and boosted the number of migrants using smugglers to cross the border.

Migrants expelled under U.S. public health policy

The Trump administration invoked Title 42 in March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, authorizing Border Patrol agents to immediately turn back immigrants at border crossings without allowing them to seek asylum under immigration law. 

Since then, officials have enforced the public health policy nearly 2.7 million times at the southern border. (This doesn’t necessarily mean that 2.7 million people have been expelled under Title 42; some people are expelled multiple times after trying to cross the border on several occasions.)

Title 42 has created overcrowding in northern Mexican towns as immigrants temporarily settle there after being expelled by the U.S. They’re waiting for the policy to be lifted so they can try applying for asylum in the U.S., experts said.

"The best way to describe it is bottleneck," said Dylan Corbett, executive director at the Hope Border Institute, an El Paso, Texas, nonprofit that runs a humanitarian program for migrants in Ciudad Juárez. "If you came here right now, and I took you around to the different facilities, you’d see that they’re all full because people are waiting to be able to access asylum."

The Biden administration’s stance on Title 42 has shifted. The president tried to rescind the policy in early 2021, but was blocked by federal courts. This year, Biden expanded the policy to include immigrants from countries that had previously been exempt, in part because of a parole program allowing temporary entrance into the U.S 

Under a U.S.-Mexico agreement that began earlier this year, Mexico each month is taking up to 30,000 people who are expelled by the U.S. under Title 42. This agreement covers nationals of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti.

Experts say  people have rushed to northern Mexico towns to wait and see whether Title 42 will remain or be eliminated. 

Title 42 is expected to end in May when the United States’ COVID-19 public health emergency expires. 

How Biden-era and Mexican policies have also caused overcrowding

The Biden administration created a parole program allowing immigrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua to enter the U.S. legally and work for a two-year period. To apply for the program, migrants must use a phone app to schedule appointments with immigration officials at official ports of entry.

But limited appointment times and technical problems  with the app have led to overcrowding in Mexican border towns as immigrants await their turns. Experts told PolitiFact that migrant shelters are full, leaving migrants on the streets begging for money to stay at cheap hotels. 

Campbell said that although U.S. policy directly influences conditions in Mexico, so do the actions of Mexican authorities. 

Corbett said that in January, when Biden visited El Paso, Texas, additional Mexican federal immigration enforcement agents arrived in Ciudad Juárez. He said this coincided with Mexico’s agreement to take back 30,000 additional migrants each month.  

"This crackdown on the part of Mexico is a result of the U.S. putting pressure on Mexico to detain and deport people," Corbett said. 

Our ruling

Castro said, "Title 42 and other Trump-era holdovers are forcing migrants into dangerous, overcrowded conditions in Mexico."

Experts say Castro is right. U.S. immigration policies influence conditions in northern Mexican border towns. More specifically, a Trump-era public health order — continued under Biden — has led to significant overcrowding in border cities and shelters as immigrants are sent back to Mexico without the option of applying for asylum in the U.S. 

Biden policies have worsened the situation as immigrants stay in Mexico awaiting asylum appointments at official U.S. ports of entry, experts say. 

The statement is accurate but needs additional information. We rate it Mostly True.

Our Sources

Tweet, Joaquin Castro, March 28, 2023

PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: How does Joe Biden’s proposed asylum rule differ from Donald Trump’s ‘transit ban’?, March 2, 2023

The New York Times, Before Covid-19, Trump Aide Sought to Use Disease to Close Borders, May 3, 2020

Reuters, Migrant smugglers see boost from U.S. pandemic border policy, Nov. 12, 2020

El Paso Times, Pregnant migrant sought refuge, but learned there's 'no help right now' at US-Mexico border, Jun. 24, 2020

ABC, Migrants grow frustrated in Mexico, leading to desperate attempts at entering the US, March 25, 2023 

The New York Times, U.S. Border Policies Have Created a Volatile Logjam in Mexico, March 28, 2023

PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: What can we expect if Title 42 is lifted?, Dec. 16, 2022

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Nationwide Encounters, accessed April 4, 2023

WOLA, U.S. And Mexico Must End Policies That Expose Migrants to Death and Danger, March 29, 2023

CNN, The Biden administration keeps shifting its stance on a controversial policy, Jan. 5, 2023

NPR, Supreme Court allows border restrictions for asylum-seekers to continue for now, Dec. 27, 2022

PolitiFact, Illegal immigration dropped after new Venezuela program, but public health policy also contributed, Jan. 6, 2023

NBC News, The Title 42 Covid ban at the southern border may end on May 11, Feb. 1, 2023

American Immigration Council, CBP One Is Riddled With Flaws That Make the App Inaccessible to Many Asylum Seekers, Feb. 28, 2023

El Diario, ‘Si levantan la cabeza, les disparo’, denuncian tortura de municipales, March 3, 2023

El Paso Matters, Juárez mayor says city will crackdown on migrants; urges residents not to give money to panhandlers, March 14, 2023

El Paso Matters, Mexican immigration agents raid Juárez hotel, church; inspect migrants’ documentation, March 9, 2023

Phone interview, Dylan Corbett, executive director at the Hope Border Institute, March 30, 2023

Phone interview, Howard Campbell, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Texas at El Paso, March 31, 2023

Email exchange, Rep. Joaquin Castro spokesperson, March 30, 2023

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U.S. policies, and other factors, lead to overcrowded conditions for migrants in Mexico

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