As the Trump era policy known as Title 42 ended May 11, politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle expressed fear of a flood of migrants entering the US without requisite immigration documents.
But Omar Ochoa, city attorney for Edinburg, Texas, a town on the U.S.-Mexico border, predicts there will be little impact for border communities in the U.S., which, despite Title 42, have seen a surge of immigrants nonetheless.
“I live in Edinburgh, Texas, which is right on the border. We are very much integrated with Mexico. There’s a lot of trade that goes on in this area, a lot of commerce through Mexico into the US. And vice versa. So it’s a very integrated community.”
“What I would say is that by and large throughout this time period, this community in South Texas has not necessarily felt a squeeze or a huge impact from immigration, even with the numbers increasing over the last couple of years,” said Ochoa in a May 11 interview with Ethnic Media Services.
Expansion of Texas Economy
“When you come down to it, there has been an influx of immigration over the last few years. If you look at the numbers, they are increasing. And so in 2021, it was a bigger number of people than in 2020. In 2022 was even a bigger number of people than in 2021.”
“The Texas economy has been in an expansionary point for the last decade or so, especially in all of its major cities. There’s a lot of opportunity, for people who are looking for work to find it. So I don’t know if that means that Texas is well suited or can take in a migrant influx, but I think what that says is, over the last few years, despite the migrant influx, Texas has continued to thrive economically,” said Ochoa.
“Any economist would say that immigration is necessary to a national economy. It is a way to increase the workforce, bringing in new methods and techniques. And I don’t think anybody, any politician, Republican or Democrat, would really say otherwise,” said Ochoa, adding that the big debates are around how many immigrants should be allowed and the manner in which they are allowed to enter the country.
Title 42 Explained
Title 42 is an emergency health directive issued by the Trump administration at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. The directive allowed immigration authorities to turn away migrants who showed up at the U.S.-Mexico border, ostensibly to prevent the spread of Covid. Migrants were forced to remain in the last country they entered before attempting to cross the border, which was largely Mexico, as their claims for asylum were processed. Huge backlogs in the system resulted in wait times of more than two years, with asylum seekers living in tents in crowded areas.
Critics of Title 42 have called the policy cruel and inhumane.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform Unlikely
As Title 42 ends, the Biden Administration has authorized several new regulations and controls to stem the flow of migrants, including a holdover from Trump: turning away anyone seeking asylum who didn’t first seek protection in a country they traveled through. Migrants caught at the border will face criminal penalties and will not be allowed into the U.S. for a period of five years.
Comprehensive immigration reform, which would permanently fix a very broken immigration system has been on the front burner for Congress for several years. But the immigration system has nonetheless seen no tangible reform.
Ochoa expressed pessimism about comprehensive immigration reform being passed in the current, very divided political climate.
Humane Immigration Policy
“Realistically speaking, I don’t see that happening, even with the end of Title 42 coming,” he said. “We’ve known that this day was coming. And even in the face of that, there still has not been agreement even amongst the parties themselves in terms of how to respond to this.”
“Republicans are arguing with themselves about what to do and Democrats are arguing with themselves about what to do, let alone trying to get the two sides to actually agree to pass anything. Immigration is an incredibly thorny issue.”
“There are budgetary concerns, obviously, but also the human aspect of it. There’s a lot of human rights that are tied into immigration policies as well. So it just makes the whole issue very difficult to come to any kind of general agreement on. And I think that’s why we’ve had the system in place for so long without any major reform,” said Ochoa.
“It’s not just a border issue. It really is a national issue. And it affects not just communities on the border or states on the border, but the entire country. So I think there’s a real need to try to fix the system,” he said.