BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Border Report) — A heavy law enforcement presence remained Friday at the base of the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas, which could be a point for migrants to try to cross in large numbers into South Texas since the lifting of Title 42.

An estimated 20,000 asylum-seekers are waiting across the border in Matamoros, Mexico, and the fear is they will try to cross the bridge on foot, believing they can now claim asylum as Title 42 pandemic-era rules were lifted on Thursday night.

Adding to the angst are strong storms predicted to bring flooding to the region this weekend, which could make crossing the Rio Grande deadly for migrants.

But Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says Title 8 removal orders for those not qualified to claim asylum in the United States have replaced Title 42, which since 2020 has prevented migrants from claiming asylum at the border in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“People who arrive at the border without using a lawful pathway will be presumed ineligible for asylum. We are ready to humanely process and remove people without a legal basis to remain in the U.S.,” Mayorkas said as Title 42 lifted at 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday.

Law enforcement vehicles on Friday were stationed at the entrance to the Gateway International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas, which leads to Matamoros, Mexico. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

There are 24,000 Border Patrol agents, Customs and Border Protection officers, as well as other law enforcement that have been surged to the Southwest border to stop those who do not try to legally enter the United States, he said.

The border is not open. People who do not use available lawful pathways to enter the U.S. now face tougher consequences, including a minimum five-year ban on re-entry and potential criminal prosecution. Together with our partners throughout the federal government and Western Hemisphere, we are prepared for this transition,” Mayorkas said.

Heavy law enforcement

In South Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and Texas National Guard members have spooled miles of barbed wire along the Rio Grande to prevent migrants from entering.

Joshua Rubin, the founder of the grassroots organization Witness at the Border, shared a video from Matamoros on Thursday showing dozens of migrants carrying children atop their shoulders as they wade into the water up to their chins and cross onto Texas soil.

Joshua Rubin, founder of the grassroots group Witness at the Border, came to Brownsville, Texas, on May 11, for the end of Title 42 and traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, to help migrants. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

“I’ve seen people take their families and wade into the river and swim across to the other side. Today it was particularly harsh because on the other side now they’ve unspooled lots of concertina wire, the people that are occupying this camp here are the Texas National Guard, and they’re unspooling concertina wire, and they’re carrying automatic weapons, and they’re confronting a bunch of families, women and men and children who get across that river by keeping their kids heads afloat, on little rubber toys, inflatable toys,” Rubin said.

Rubin is from New York City but is a frequent face in the Rio Grande Valley and travels here often to advocate for migrants.

He stood with a sign over his head that read “LET THEM CROSS” as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday afternoon gave a news conference condemning the Biden administration for allowing the release of over 30,000 migrants, mostly Venezuelans, into Brownsville in a portable processing area that is now dubbed “Camp Monument.”

“This is an invasion,” Cruz said flanked by other Republican senators.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to media on May 11, 2023, at the ‘Camp Monument’ mobile processing facility set up by Customs and Border Protection in Brownsville, Texas. (KVEO Photo)

But Friday, the streets were relatively calm and the large groups of migrants who had turned themselves in for the past two weeks atop a dirt levee near an abandoned golf course were few and far between.

Buses carrying asylum-seekers still went to and from the area, but not nearly the same amount as have for the past two weeks.

Stuck migrants

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr., said that many of the migrants released into Brownsville do not have the economic means to travel elsewhere.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

Some are washing cars; some are asking for money; others are gathered throughout town trying to scrounge up enough change to share a burger.

Cameron County issued a disaster declaration on Thursday due to the migrant surge, just hours after Hidalgo County also issued a disaster declaration. Both are good for seven days.

The border city of Brownsville has been overrun by migrants, mostly Venezuelans, who are sleeping on streets and overcrowding migrant shelters and the only overnight shelter in the area.

Andrea Rudnik with the nonprofit Team Brownsville, said Friday that they were told to get additional hygiene supplies and to expect 1,000 migrants later in the day. But as of mid-day, she said their numbers at the Welcome Center, located across the street from the city’s bus station, were relatively low — just a couple hundred.

The Welcome Center in Brownsville, Texas, gives out hygiene supplies, clothing and meals to asylum seekers. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

“But it changes from hour to hour, you never know. If they say we’re getting more then we’re getting ready,” Rudnik said as she and other volunteers made a trip to a storage facility to stock up on supplies.

Strong winds, hail and up to 3 inches of rain are predicted for the Rio Grande Valley this weekend.

That could flood the shabby migrant encampments where tents are made from nylon batting, Rudnik said.

Her organization is collecting additional tenting supplies — like rope, nylon and plastic covers, as well as raincoats and rain boots — to take south of the border to the migrants in Matamoros, she told Border Report.

Donations can be made on the Team Brownsville website.