~ by Rhina Guidos, National Catholic Reporter
Fr. Gustavo Meneses said he felt a “tense peace” in El Paso after a pandemic-era health rule expired, opening up the way for migrants to once again apply for asylum at the U.S. border with Mexico – something that has been largely curtailed since the coronavirus pandemic began.
The priest said he was in El Paso to show solidarity with the border diocese and tend to a large group of migrants that had been expected to cross the border as Title 42 ended. Instead, Meneses said he was “thankfully surprised” that predictions of a large-scale disaster didn’t materialize.
The Trump administration put Title 42 in place in March 2020 and though there were some exceptions, by and large, it allowed Border Patrol agents to rapidly expel those seeking to apply for asylum in the U.S., saying it was a measure taken to keep Covid-19 infections down.
Many Catholic organizations, including women religious, Catholic social justice groups, and some bishops, long had been calling for the policy to end.
Its lifting, however, comes with uncertainty about what’s to come, as those who work with migrants and those who oppose immigration are trying to untangle yet-to-be finalized immigration policies and rules recently unveiled by the Biden administration.
El Paso Bishop Mark Seitz told NCR the concern is for those in detention as well as the released.
The worry for those like Seitz, Meneses and Corbett is the lack of humane treatment toward migrants like Anyibeth Urdneta, a 37 year-old indigenous Venezuelan, who had arrived at the diocese’s shelter on May 13. Urdaneta said she was sold into marriage as a teen and was escaping an abusive husband as well as violence from cartels, not easy to do in the midst of her country’s spiraling economy. She said that she was terrified of the idea of crossing into the U.S. but felt she had no choice.
“We’re still dealing with the aftermath of the pre-May 12th surge…and we really want to avoid [a situation] where there are hundreds of people dropped in the streets as temperatures rise. Right now, we’re trying to gear up for that,” Seitz said.
But first, they’re paying attention to the recently released like Urdaneta.