A few hundred migrants who have been waiting in Reynosa, Mexico, for the end of the US pandemic public health order, known as Title 42, were allowed to seek asylum this week, sources on the ground told CNN.
The Biden administration is on track to end Title 42 on May 23. The Trump-era policy has allowed border authorities to turn away migrants at the US southern border since March 2020. The decision to lift it now, made by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has many politicians and officials on both sides of the aisle concerned due to the potential for a surge in migrants at the border.
The asylum-seekers were processed through the Reynosa-Hidalgo International port of entry in south Texas, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the process.
There are more than 7,000 migrants waiting in Reynosa, Mexico, for Title 42 to lift.
The processing of several hundred migrants in a few days is a notable exception. US immigration authorities have, in the past two years, applied humanitarian exceptions to Title 42, but only in small numbers for vulnerable migrants.
According to one source, about 95 families – 45 on Tuesday and 50 on Wednesday – were allowed to be processed by US immigration authorities. Each family consisted of two or three members, the source said.
These families, the source said, are among the most vulnerable people who have been waiting in Mexico for Title 42 to lift, with some waiting for more than a year. The families include pregnant women with children and women with children with special needs, the source said.
More families were expected to be processed Thursday by US immigration officials, the source added.
Department of Homeland Security officials didn’t directly answer CNN questions about the asylum-seekers on Thursday, but a spokesperson said in a statement: “Consistent with the CDC Order, DHS continues to grant Title 42 exceptions to particularly vulnerable individuals on a case-by-case basis.”
Customs and Border Protection “adapts as needed to meet operational needs,” the statement continued. “There has been no change in DHS’s enforcement of the CDC’s Title 42 public health Order. Title 42 remains in place until May 23 and, until then, DHS will continue to expel single adults and families encountered at the Southwest border.”
An ACLU spokesperson applauded the exceptions made, but pressed the administration to follow through with its plan to end the Trump-era public health order.
“Humanitarian exemptions for especially vulnerable asylum seekers is great but by no means a substitute for ending Title 42 completely and ending the grave danger to Haitians and others,” said Lee Gelernt, ACLU’s lead attorney on Title 42 litigation. “We expect the administration not to backtrack on its promise to end Title 42 by May 23.”
Earlier this month, Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s decision to end Title 42. Later, more than a dozen states, mostly Republican-led, joined the lawsuit.
In a Thursday filing, the states asked the court to intervene, arguing that the administration had begun to process migrants under immigration law instead of through the public health authority and that the states are likely to prevail on the merits of their claims.
A judge asked for the Biden administration to respond by 1 p.m. ET Friday.
CNN’s Amy Simonson and Priscilla Alvarez contributed to this report.