End of Title 42: Yuma area calm and quiet following initial migrant rush

Title 42, a pandemic-era policy that made it harder for migrants to come into the U.S., expired on the night of May 11.

The policy, according to the Associated Press, is the name of an emergency health authority. It’s a holdover from the Trump administration and it began in March 2020. The authority allowed U.S. officials to turn away migrants who came to the U.S.-Mexico border on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Before that, migrants could cross illegally, ask for asylum and be allowed into the U.S.. They were then screened and often released to wait out their immigration cases.

Under Title 42, migrants were returned back over the border and denied the right to seek asylum. U.S. officials turned away migrants more than 2.8 million times. Families and children traveling alone were exempt.

But there were no real consequences when someone illegally crossed the border. So migrants were able to try again and again to cross, on the off chance that they would get into the U.S.

President Joe Biden initially kept Title 42 in place after he took office, then tried to end its use in 2022. Republicans sued, arguing that the restrictions were necessary border security. Courts had kept the rules in place. But the Biden administration announced in January that it was ending national COVID-19 emergencies, and so the border restrictions are now going away.

Also Read: House Republicans pass new asylum restrictions as Title 42 ends

Yuma saw initial migrant rush

On the night of May 11, our cameras caught a wave of migrants crossing the border in the Yuma area.

"Where are you trying to go?" one of the migrants was asked.

"We are trying to go to America," the migrant replied.

Among the migrants, there was a mix of emotions, with some cheering and others crying, thinking they have finally made it. However, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas sent a stern warning to migrants. The warning states if migrants arrive illegally after Title 42 expired, they will be removed, and cannot claim asylum.

On May 12, the situation in the Yuma area was calm and quiet.

Local organizations brace for increase in service demands

For organizations that provide assistance to those in need across the Phoenix area, the end of Title 42 could add to the need for their services.

The end of Title 42 could being more migrants to the Valley, and while the two events are not related, Title 42 is ending less than 48 hours after the City of Phoenix began a cleanup process of a homeless encampment area near Downtown Phoenix known as "The Zone."

Read More: 'The Zone': Here's what you should know about Phoenix's cleanup plan for the homeless encampment

The end of Title 42 and The Zone's cleanup process are also taking place as the U.S. is dealing with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the ongoing opioid epidemic.

One shelter in the Phoenix area, located along Washington Street, is now home to 19 people who used to live in The Zone.

"This place is just awesome for me, because there’s not as many people," said Deborah Ramirez. "There is a lot of security and staff walking around. A lot of support."

The facility has more than 200 beds, and it is now completely booked, even before any migrants showed up from Mexico.

"St. Vincent de Paul committed to providing food, because that’s what we do best, and we’re going to do what we can to help organizations and provide the services they need," said Shelter Manager Jennifer Morgan.

Meanwhile, places like Vineyard Community Church in Gilbert have been helping migrants for years, and don’t expect anything to change after title 42 because they are already doing as much as they can.

In addition to a need for shelter, migrants will likely need transportation to reach their sponsors across the country, and much of that work will likely fall on other helping organizations, in Arizona and beyond.

Prior to Title 42s expiry, Yuma officials say they are feeling the impact of increased migrant crossings

Before Title 42 was lifted, many expressed fears of a surge of people crossing into the United States illegally.

According to Homeland Security officials and sheriffs in border counties, a predicted 10,000 migrants will cross into the U.S., per day, after Title 42 ends.

In Yuma, city leaders saying that more than 1,000 migrants are crossing the border already, on a daily basis.

Officials there are expecting things to get even busier once Title 42 ends, and during a news conference on May 11, hours before Title 42 is set to end, Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls salic the city "does not have funding for the transportation, feeding and sheltering of migrants, and in the event has to provide any services, would request reimbursement from the appropriate state and federal agencies."

"We also get this common concept that we have seen this before, that we have been here before, we know how to do this. That is just simply not the case. Today is far greater than any previous situation in total numbers and in total duration," said Mayor Nicholls.