In Ciudad Juarez, immigrants slip over the border to turn themselves in and claim asylum

FILE PHOTO: Migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico, in El Paso

CIUDAD JUAREZ, CHIHUAHUA – Even before the U.S. Supreme Court opted to keep in place a measure aimed at deterring border crossings, hundreds of migrants in northern Mexico were taking matters into their own hands to slip into the United States.

The contentious pandemic-era measure known as Title 42 had been due to expire on Dec. 21, but last-minute legal stays pitched border policy into limbo and made many migrants decide they had little to lose by crossing anyway.

After spending days in chilly border cities, groups of migrants from Venezuela and other countries targeted by Title 42 opted to make a run for it rather than sit out the uncertainty of the legal tug-of-war playing out in U.S. courts.

“We ran, and we hid, until we managed to make it,” said Jhonatan, a Venezuelan migrant who scrambled across the border from the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez into El Paso, Texas with his wife and five children, aged 3 to 16, on Monday night.

Giving only his first name and speaking by phone, Jhonatan said he had already spent several months in Mexico and had not wanted to enter the United States illegally.

But the thought of failing after a journey that took his family through the perilous jungles of Darien in Panama, up Central America and into Mexico was more than he could bear.

“It would be the last straw to get here, and then they send us back to Venezuela,” he told Reuters.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a request by a group of Republican state attorneys general to put on hold a judge’s decision invalidating Title 42. They had argued its removal would increase border crossings.

The court said it would hear arguments on whether the states could intervene to defend Title 42 during its February session. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

Reuters images showed migrants racing across a busy highway alongside the border last week, one man barefoot and carrying a small child – the kind of risky crossing that alarms migrant advocates.