EL PASO, United States: Before turning himself in to US borders officials in a step On Tuesday, Juan Fernandez sent a farewell text message to his wife in Venezuela.
Then he wiped his tears, and walked with a friend firmly into CBP (CBP) building.
“We are very afraid,” he said, “but we have to believe.”
Fearing drastic political changes coming to the US-Mexico border this week, the 40-year-old Venezuelan illegally crossed through one of the gaps in the border wall three days ago.
He is one of thousands of Venezuelans who have arrived in El Paso in the final days before Title 42 expires.
The health measure was introduced by then-President Donald Trump in 2020 to close the southern border during the pandemic.
The measure, inherited by President Joe Biden, previously exempted asylum seekers from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
While exemptions have already been revoked, those nationalities still benefit from special asylum programmes, such as the CBP One mobile app.
But for the thousands waiting across the Mexican border, those programs haven’t yielded results, and they decided to cross before the post-42-era uncertainty on Friday.
“I waited for four months trying to submit my application, but I was ignored,” said Glydis Losada.
“Everyone I knew was crossing the cracks. I was left behind, and I decided I couldn’t wait any longer.”
Lopez has spent the last four nights outside Sacred Heart Church in El Paso, which has become a gathering point for thousands of immigrants, mostly Venezuelans, who have no money to reach their final destinations in the United States.
With their meager possessions, they sleep in makeshift tents — plastic sheets attached to railings — and use portable toilets set up around the church.
With the imminent expiration of Title 42 on Thursday night through Friday, tensions are running high in America’s border towns.
Customs and Border Protection officials distributed flyers early Tuesday morning urging illegal immigrants to turn themselves in.
“We are seeing the implementation of a very harsh policy that surprises us very much, because Biden promised during his campaign a more humane border policy,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization.
“What we are witnessing is a humanitarian crisis. We are seeing people seeking asylum and being rejected. We will see a large-scale deportation policy in the next few days.”
But for immigrants, there is no wall or policy preventing them from trying to get to the United States.
“They can throw Title 42 and all these rules at us, but immigration will not end. We will keep coming because we are hungry,” said Ibor Tovar, a 34-year-old Venezuelan.
“When you are hungry, when you are oppressed by a dictatorship, you do whatever it takes to seek a better life.”
After the authorities visited the makeshift camp in El Paso, Fernandez And his friend decided to turn themselves in.
Their maneuver inspired the couple, who were watching in fear from the opposite sidewalk, to do the same.
Three hours later, Fernandez and the couple were leaving through the back door of the CBP building with a “Welcome to the United States” flyer and a form making the asylum claim official.
The news spread like wildfire, and within minutes, hundreds of Venezuelans lined the doors of the federal agency.
“I feel joy, sadness and fear,” said Venezuelan Jose Contreras, 21, crying. Moments earlier, he was kneeling on the sidewalk, deep in prayer.
For others, the fear of deportation outweighs the hope of a legal pathway.
“I’m afraid they’re going to kick me out,” said a 23-year-old who turned around and left the line. “I don’t want to go back to Venezuela – there is no future there.”
“Some people were allowed to stay, but not all of us will be so lucky.”
For Fernandez, those words sound true. He still hasn’t received word from the friend who accompanied him to the CBP station.


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