DC-area advocates express concerns over ending of Title 42 migrant policy

As the nation braces for an influx of migrants, advocates in the D.C. area are expressing concern about a lack of resources.

The D.C. Office of Migrant Services recently said it didn’t have any more room available to house families.

According to the agency, hotels used for housing were filled to capacity with more than 1,200 people from 370 families.

“Part of the problem is that there is no dedicated housing,” said Abel Nuñez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, which has been helping migrants when they arrive.

“There’s already a shortage of housing in D.C.,” he said. “The competition for housing or just where you can put them is really complicated.”

Over the past year or so, the District has been dealing with thousands of migrants who have been bused in by the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona as a way of protesting President Joe Biden’s administration’s immigration policies.

According to Nuñez, buses have stopped coming from Texas for now, but they continue coming from Arizona.

“We’ve had to create infrastructure that did not exist in the D.C. area before,” he said, noting that the D.C. government created the office of migrant services specifically in response to the buses coming in.

“The problem is that we are seeing an increase of immigrants coming to the area that are not prepared to live independently,” Nuñez said. “It’s kind of a perfect storm of the federal government not aligning with the municipal governments and not planning ahead.”

This week marks the end of coronavirus restrictions on asylum that have allowed the U.S. to quickly expel migrants at the southern border for the last three years.

Title 42 authorized Customs and Border Protection to immediately remove migrants, including people seeking asylum.

The Biden administration announced in January that it was ending the national emergencies linked to the pandemic. That also spelled the end of using Title 42 to deal with immigration.

Thursday is the last day Title 42 is expected to be used and starting Friday, asylum-seekers will be interviewed by immigration officers. Those who are found to have a “credible fear” of being persecuted in their home countries can stay in the U.S. until a final determination is made.

One key concern is that migrants might feel they have a greater chance now to get asylum in the U.S., so more will attempt to enter and overwhelm authorities’ ability to care for and process them.

While that concern exists in the D.C. area, Nuñez said he was optimistic about the future.

“Right now you’re going to have an immediate flow of folks coming in because there was pent-up demand at the southern border, but eventually it will even out.” he said. “It’s going to be complicated, but immigrants are resilient and they will find a way.”

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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