Migrants crossing into Eagle Pass, Texas, knew little or nothing about the rule, under which migrants have been expelled more than 1.9 million times since March 2020. They were mostly from Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela — nationalities mostly spared from fleeing the asylum ban because high costs, strained diplomatic ties or other considerations make it difficult for the US to fly them home.

Ana Pinales from the Dominican Republic, who reached Eagle Pass after three years living illegally in Chile where she could not find steady work, waded across the river before sunrise and went searching with about 35 Nicaraguans and 25 Cubans down a dirt road for US border guards to apply for asylum. She walked longer than the others and met about 15 other migrants waiting under one of the two Eagle Pass bridges in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras. An agent arrived for them several hours later, relieving armed members of the Texas National Guard who had been guarding the group as golfers played at an adjacent riverfront golf course.

“Everyone in the world knows this route,” said Pinales, 28, with a smile, relieved she was almost at the end of a two-month journey that took her through Panama’s infamous Darien Gap and Mexico, where she was robbed of $3,000, while biding her time at a park in the southern city of Tapachula. She said she also frequently paid bribes to get past Mexican military checkpoints.

Title 42 has mostly affected people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, many of whom have been waiting in Mexican border towns after being denied the right to seek asylum by the US government. Mexico has agreed to take in migrants from these three Central American countries who have been turned away by the US, and last month also began accepting a limited number of Cubans and Nicaraguans who have been turned away by US authorities.

Nolberto Avila, a small-scale coffee farmer who fled threats of violence in Colombia, leaving his mother and a sibling there to manage the crops, had never heard of Title 42 on the social media channels migrants are consulting about Find out who to trust and who to avoid and what to avoid. Online chatter led him to Eagle Pass after flying to Cancun and riding buses to the US border.

“It feels good to be here,” said Avila, 30, who spent $3,000 on plane tickets and other travel expenses like bribing Mexican soldiers. His final destination is Los Angeles.

A group of about 150 mostly Cuban migrants gathered a short distance south of the bridge on Friday after swimming and walking across the river in smaller groups for several hours for several hours before dawn. Border guards lined them up and directed them into vans to go to a processing area. About two-thirds were men, almost all the others were women, and some were young children.

Elliot Spagat, The Associated Press

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