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U.S. Supreme Court extends border rule. Shelters fear migrant surge if it's lifted

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The uncertainty over Title 42 is being seen and felt along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump-era policy used to quickly expel migrants during pandemic was due to end tomorrow, but the Supreme Court has put that on hold while it considers a request from a group of Republican state attorneys general to keep the policy in place. I spoke with Ruben Garcia about this. He's a director of Annunciation House, which runs five shelters for migrants in the El Paso area.

RUBEN GARCIA: Right now, from the statistics that we are seeing, Border Patrol is processing in the neighborhood of about 2,000, 2,100 individuals, refugees, per day. If Title 42 is lifted from one day to the other, just like that, I would imagine that those numbers could jump up to four or 5,000 refugees per day.

MARTÍNEZ: When it comes to the migrants that you are working with right now, where are they coming from? Are you noticing any changes in why they're showing up, and what do they need?

GARCIA: I've been doing this for almost 45 years. The reasons people flee their country has remained consistent for 45 years. They flee their country because they are afraid. They flee their country because their country is not able to allow them to feed their family. You know, I was speaking to an 18-year-old who came up with his mom and his four younger siblings, and they're from Ecuador, and they crossed through the Darien Gap.

MARTÍNEZ: And really quick, for those who don't know, the Darien Gap is the area that divides North America and South America in Panama.

GARCIA: Yeah, Colombia and Panama. Correct. Here I have a kid, and he looks every bit the part of a kid, and he's telling me about the dead bodies as they cross the Darien Gap. He tells me about the gangs taking people from the group. They were taking - women being raped. You listen to people articulate the kinds of risks with their lives that they're taking in fleeing their country. And they have heard about this from others who have crossed, and they see no other alternative. And yet that is a better option than to remain in Ecuador.

MARTÍNEZ: The migrants that are in El Paso now - where are they staying? How many are out there right now? How many would you estimate?

GARCIA: If Border Patrol is processing 2,000, 2,200 individuals per day, you have to then look at what is the capacity. The county can receive 600 of those. Your NGO network is going to receive in excess of 700 individuals today. Some will be placed on planes, and there will be lateral flights to other border cities where they will be released. And then any individuals beyond those possibilities, they're going to get released to the street of El Paso. And this has been very, very challenging. The city has begun to offer some hotel accommodations, places for people to spend the night while they make arrangements to move on. But even that is not sufficient.

MARTÍNEZ: Outside of El Paso getting help from the federal government, who else can help?

GARCIA: We're asking faith communities to consider the possibility of receiving refugees. My hope is that the number of faith communities across the country will increase dramatically where it's possible to send buses to cities all across the country who are willing to step forward and say, yes, this is something that belongs to us as a country.

MARTÍNEZ: Ruben Garcia, executive director of Annunciation House Shelters in El Paso. Ruben, thank you very much.

GARCIA: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.