MS Risk Blog

Implications of the end of ‘Title 42’ on Migration

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The removal of ‘Title 42’ has decreased the severity of the migrant crisis that has been continuing throughout 2022 and early 2023, however it has now become more dangerous for migrants to move through Mexico to reach the border.

The end of the U.S COVID-era border policy ‘Title 42’, which allowed border officials to expel migrants back to Mexico without giving them the chance to request asylum, came to an end on 12 May 2023 and many feared that this would lead to a mass influx of migrants attempting to cross the border and thus an increase in detentions of those caught attempting to cross the border illegally. However, the expected influx of migrants never came. In contrast there has been a decline in the number of immigrants attempting to cross the border. The decrease in attempted illegal crossings can likely be attributed to the consequences for attempting to cross illegally becoming harsher as well as not being able to seek asylum. This has made attempting to cross illegally less favourable compared to crossing legally. However, the replacement for Title 42, the Circumvention of lawful pathways rule, severely restricts access to asylum for migrants, requiring them to meet one of a handful of criteria before obtaining asylum. As a result, illegal crossings may see another surge in the future. The dangers of crossing through Mexico have increased however, as the removal of ‘Title 42’ and incentives to cross the border legally has impacted the smuggling trade. A bus carrying 50 migrants was taken control of by smugglers leading to the kidnapping and ransoming of the migrants on board. It is likely that this will increase in the future as smugglers attempt to make up for the loss in income. Therefore, ‘Title 42’s’ removal has led to less pressure across the border, but an increase in risk for migrants travelling through Mexico.

On 12 May, ‘Title 42’, introduced under the Trump administration came to an end. The end of the policy led some to anticipate a high influx of migrants crossing the border and severe issues with border control. On the same day as the policy’s end, New York Governor Kathy Hochul asked for federal government assistance with constructing and operating temporary shelters in anticipation of several thousand migrants arriving in New York. The migrant crisis that has persisted throughout 2023 certainly gave credibility to this concern. However, in contrast to people’s beliefs the number of migrants illegally crossing the border has decreased, with the number of migrants intercepted by border patrol whilst attempting to cross being down seventy percent, and the situation along the border has dramatically calmed down. The Biden administration’s new policy has likely had some effect on migrants’ decision to cross the border illegally. The new Circumvention of lawful pathways rule, which has been introduced by the Biden administration as a replacement for Title 42, has increased the severity of punishments for those who cross illegally as well as made it more difficult to obtain asylum for migrants entering the country. Migrants now must meet one of a handful of criteria before obtaining asylum as opposed to the larger number of criteria prior. Despite asylum being more difficult to obtain for migrants, the Biden administration has created avenues to incentivise entering through legal means. An expanded parole program for migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti now allows for up to 30,000 people a month from these countries to apply for asylum should they apply from outside the U.S. Furthermore, migrants who cross the border illegally will now face a 5-year ban on applying for asylum in the future, further incentivising entering through legal measures.

The dangers of crossing through Mexico have been heightened with the ‘Title 42’s’ removal. The incentivisation and increase in punishments of being caught crossing illegally have led to migrants relying less on smugglers to cross the border. This has led to a significant impact to their income. On 16 May, a bus heading to the border holding fifty migrants disappeared near Matehuala, San Luis Potosi. The smugglers who kidnapped the migrants called the bus company ransoming each passenger for one-thousand dollars. The migrants were eventually all found and rescued however the smugglers are still at large. A large-scale kidnapping such as this does not come without many risks, and the timing of the kidnapping suggests that the smugglers business has been heavily impacted by the removal of ‘Title 42’. It is likely therefore that more attempts such as this will be made by migrant smugglers in attempts to make up for lost business.

Overall, the removal of ‘Title 42’ will likely lead to an increase in migrants crossing the border, primarily through legal means. It is unlikely that this will lead to violent incidents along the border which we have been seeing throughout 2023 as there has been a dramatic decrease in such incidents since the policy was removed. There may be some attempts to cross illegally as the new measures introduced still make it difficult for all migrants to cross. It will be more dangerous for migrants crossing through Mexico as smugglers will now resort to new measures to obtain money to make up for lost business, this will likely appear in the forms of kidnappings and ransom.