For the time being, no more migrants seeking asylum in the United States will flow through Cochise County, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Thursday evening.
In an email to various officials across Cochise County Friday, Michael G. Hyatt, the patrol agent in charge of the Brian A. Terry Border Patrol Station in Bisbee, said the release of migrants in the area would be ending for now.
“The number of subjects in-custody for Tucson Sector is currently at a level where we can process and transfer subjects in a manner that does not require us to release on their own recognizance.”
“Short of any large groups crossing the border and giving up, we are adjusting course in our processing pathway to transfer, utilizing organic assets, to Tucson under one of the applicable consequence programs. We have canceled the transport assistance afforded to us so that funding is not wasted and hopefully remains available should it be needed in the future.”
“We will certainly be transparent if/when circumstances raise to [the] level where we were the past two weeks. Our messages on releases will discontinue for the time being.”
Post-Title 42 situationFor the last two weeks up until Friday, migrants wanting asylum in the U.S. were surrendering at the U.S.-Mexico border. The undocumented individuals were being processed at the Border Patrol stations in Douglas and Bisbee and were then being released and placed in luxury buses headed for Tucson.
As of Friday, roughly 2,300 migrants had passed through Cochise County, either through Douglas or Bisbee, and expressed a desire to go north, according to information from officials.
The rush of individuals trying to enter the U.S. legally was fueled by the lifting of Title 42, a decades-old policy revived by the Trump administration aimed at keeping migrants out of the U.S. during the spread of COVID-19 — even if they were seeking asylum.
The policy however, unintentionally sparked the illegal entry of thousands upon thousands of migrants who slipped across the Southwest border of the U.S. in the weeks and months leading up to the May 12 expiration of the health rule.
The anticipation across the U.S., and especially in border towns between Texas and California, was that the lifting of Title 42 would encourage even more people to flock to this country in the hopes that they could seek asylum.
But that expectation somewhat fizzled out because Title 8, another immigration policy that was in effect alongside Title 42, was set to be enforced again, which comes with harsher penalties.
Title 8 allows people to enter the country if they seek asylum, however, the migrants must show that they either sought asylum in another country first, that they made an appointment with CBP via the agency’s CBP One app, or that they can show in an interview with Border Patrol agents that their lives are in danger if they are returned to their country.
Additionally, anyone caught entering the U.S. illegally under Title 8, could be expelled to Mexico and barred from attempting to enter for five years.
Migrants began flowing into Cochise County three days before Title 42 was put to rest on May 11. They arrived steadily in either Douglas or Bisbee and were transported to Tucson twice daily in massive buses provided at first by Pima County, then by the state’s emergency management division.
The asylum-seekers, hailing from several countries, were taken to Casa Alitas in Tucson.
Casa Alitas’ website shows the program serves migrant families who have left their home countries to escape violence and poverty. The facility provides hospitality and humanitarian aid, medical services, short-term shelter and help to reunite with family members in the U.S.
Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona runs Casa Alitas’ new 300-bed facility for men, as well as four other locations that also temporarily house women, families and vulnerable people. It has a combined capacity of more than 1,000 beds.
Last week, the center was in danger of being overrun with migrants and Bisbee, Douglas and Cochise County officials were bracing for the possibility that they would have to house migrants locally.
The most pressing concern was that there would be few places to shelter the migrants here and that many would end up sleeping on the streets like in El Paso, Texas.
Two churches in Douglas had stepped forward and were preparing some of their halls to house migrants temporarily, said Douglas City Manager Ana Urquijo.
But the throng of migrants never really materialized.
While there were a couple of days during the two-week period where the number of arrivals seemed like it would be overwhelming, the following days proved to be manageable as less people showed up, officials said.
Bisbee City Manager Stephen Pauken, who published the daily count of migrants who arrived at the Border Patrol station in his city, told the Herald/Review that no migrants showed up at the station Wednesday afternoon, for example.
Douglas City manager Ana Urquijo said the morning of May 11 saw 133 migrants at to the Border Patrol station in Douglas. But then, as in Bisbee, the arrivals began to even out or wane altogether.
Overall, Pauken, Urquijo and Dan Duchon, the emergency management director for Cochise County, said that the daily arrivals of migrants went smoothly.