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As Title 42 comes to an end, El Paso declares state of emergency

Migrants stand in line to enter the makeshift shelter inside the gym of Sacred Heart Church in El Paso on Jan. 6Paso Jan. 6.
Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune
Migrants stand in line to enter the makeshift shelter inside the gym of Sacred Heart Church in El Paso on Jan. 6

El Paso will enter a state of emergency starting Monday, in advance of the pandemic-era immigration policy Title 42 being lifted, the border city’s mayor, Oscar Leeser, declared at a press conference on Sunday afternoon.

The city is anticipating an influx of immigrants when Title 42 — used during the COVID-19 pandemic to quickly expel migrants — is set to expire on May 11. Already, asylum-seekers are camping out on the sidewalks and staying at shelters in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso.

The declaration is in effect for seven days, after which the El Paso City Council will decide whether to extend the order.

The city has been preparing to open up two temporary shelters at the vacant Bassett Middle School and Morehead Middle School. The emergency declaration will allow access to additional resources to keep El Paso residents and asylum-seekers safe, Leeser said.

Once Title 42 is lifted, the U.S. Border Patrol will continue enforcing immigration laws that could punish migrants with a five-year ban on legally entering the U.S. and criminal prosecution if a migrant is caught illegally entering the country more than once.

The Biden administration said it also plans to increase deportations once Title 42 is lifted.

The administration said that anyone who doesn’t use one of the available pathways to enter the country legally also could be barred from requesting asylum in the future.

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Biden also announced last week plans to open processing centers in Latin America that would allow qualifying migrants to legally enter the U.S., Canada or Spain. The first processing centers will be in Guatemala and Colombia.

Leeser said some migrants are operating under the false pretense that they will be able to stay in the U.S. without any documentation and are waiting for Title 42 to end, which he called “bothersome.”

“We’re not opening the borders,” Leeser said. “The borders are not open today and they will not be opened on May 12.”