Immigration attorney, advocates fear for those deported

Some migrants were allowed to enter the U.S. ahead of the midnight expiration of Title 42

SAN ANTONIO – The waiting area in Terminal B at San Antonio International Airport on Thursday was filled with men, women and children who considered themselves the lucky ones.

They were allowed to enter the U.S. ahead of the midnight expiration of Title 42 and were waiting to catch flights to join their families.

Given the surge ahead of the deadline, a woman from Venezuela said, “I was very worried. We thought we didn’t have any hopes of getting in.”

Instead, the woman said she was surprised the U.S. government processed her within a matter of a few days, along with many others.

“They did everything they could. I can’t complain. They did a very good job,” she said.

By coming before Title 42 was lifted, those who arrived in San Antonio did not have to prove they had been first denied asylum in another country.

“That runs contrary to the laws Congress has passed,” said immigration attorney Lance Curtright. “If they have a claim to asylum, they deserve a right to present it.”

As a result, Curtright said the “third country rule,” similar to what the Trump administration had tried to do, will face another legal challenge.

“The Biden administration is somewhat trying to resurrect this old failed program,” Curtright said.

Now that Section Eight and its expedited removal process has been reinstated, Curtright said, “The danger would be if someone gets lost in the shuffle and people who should make a claim get deported.”

Given that most are fleeing for their lives, Curtright said being denied would be “very sad and tragic.”

Tori Salas, coordinating director for the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, said she also fears for the safety of those sent back to dangerous conditions in Mexico.

“The United States government is encouraging the business of the cartel by deporting people back to Mexico,” Salas said.

She said desperation may leave families no other choice but to risk their lives by relying on the cartels to smuggle them into the U.S.

The Venezuelan woman at the airport said she’s grateful her asylum hearing is only two months away since others have to wait much longer.

She said she believes her asylum claim will be upheld because “faith can move mountains.”

More on KSAT:

What is Title 42? KSAT Explains

About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.