Thousands of migrants are anticipating end of a public-health rule known as Title 42, which has left some biding time in Mexico.

In Reynosa, about 3,000 migrants live in tents pitched on concrete slabs and rough gravel inside the walls of Senda de Vida 2.
In Reynosa, about 3,000 migrants live in tents pitched on concrete slabs and rough gravel inside the walls of Senda de Vida 2. (AP)

Thousands of migrants have packed shelters on Mexico's border with the United States as an end neared to Trump-era asylum restrictions, with fresh numbers showing that fewer single adults crossed illegally last month.

Border Patrol agents stopped single adults 143,903 times along the Mexican border in November, down 9 percent from 158,639 times in October and the lowest level since August, according to a Justice Department court filing.

Nicaraguans became the second-largest nationality at the border among single adults after Mexicans, surpassing Cubans.

The filing in a federal lawsuit in Louisiana gave no explanation for the drop, which came ahead of Wednesday's scheduled end to a public-health rule known as Title 42.

Migrants have been denied right to seek asylum under US and international law 2.5 million times since March 2020 on the grounds of preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Republican-led states have asked a federal appeals court to keep Title 42 in place. A decision could come down to the wire.

Border cities, most notably El Paso, Texas, are facing a daily influx of migrants that the Biden administration expects to grow if asylum restrictions are lifted.

READ MORE: Texas migrant tragedy revives debate on Trump policies

Shelters opening for migrants

Tijuana, the largest Mexican border city, has an estimated 5,000 people in more than 30 shelters, Enrique Lucero's director of migrant affairs said this week.

In Reynosa, about 3,000 migrants live in tents pitched on concrete slabs and rough gravel inside the walls of Senda de Vida 2, a shelter opened by an evangelical Christian pastor when his first one reached capacity. 

For the many fleeing violence in Haiti, Venezuela, Central America and beyond, such shelters offer at least some safety from the cartels that control passage through the Rio Grande and prey on migrants.

In McAllen, about 100 migrants who avoided asylum restrictions rested on floor mats on Thursday in a large hall run by Catholic Charities, waiting for transportation to families and friends across the United States.

Title 42, which is part of a 1944 public health law, applies to all nationalities but has fallen unevenly on those whom Mexico agrees to take back — Guatemalans, Hondurans, El Salvadorans and, more recently, Venezuelans, in addition to Mexicans.

READ MORE: US judge throws out 'inhumane' Title 42 policy that expelled migrants

'Remain in Mexico' policy

In a related development, a federal judge in Amarillo, Texas, ruled the Biden administration wrongly ended a critical Trump-era policy to make asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for hearings in US immigration court. The ruling had no immediate impact but could prove a longer-term setback for the White House.

The "Remain in Mexico" policy was used to force about 70,000 asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for US hearings after being introduced in January 2019.

Biden suspended the policy on his first day in office, leading down a long and tortured legal and administrative path.

The Department of Homeland Security said it disagreed with Thursday's decision by US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump. 

Kacsmaryk first ordered that the policy be reinstated in 2021. The Biden administration complied but didn't enforce the policy widely, and only a few thousand people were sent back to wait in Mexico.

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that Biden could end the policy while sending it back to Kacsmaryk to determine whether the administration’s action was "arbitrary and capricious" and, as a result, violated federal law for crafting regulations.

READ MORE: Biden administration ends Trump-era 'Remain in Mexico' policy

Source: AP