Still, the full impact of the policy change was yet to be seen after the changes, Irene Valenzuela, executive director of the El Paso County Department of Community Services, told NBC News on Thursday.
“I think Friday morning will be the real test,” he said.
Valenzuela said that what has worried officials the most is «the unknown, not knowing the exact number that is still waiting for it to arrive.»
Title 8 allows more people to apply for asylum, which could slow down processing at border facilities, but it also includes a process for quickly sending people back across the border called «expedited removal.»
Title 8 will also allow for punishments including a possible 5-year ban and criminal prosecution for those who repeatedly attempt to enter the US illegally. Title 42 had suspended those sanctions, leading to an increase in the number of people who repeatedly crossed the border after being removed.
At the same time, the US on Wednesday finalized new asylum restrictions so that migrants are ineligible for asylum, with some exceptions, unless they use existing legal processes, present themselves at a port of entry using the CBP One app online, or applied and were rejected for asylum in a third country through which they traveled.
El Paso County has braced for a potential increase in thousands of immigrants entering the city after the Title 42 liftings, Valenzuela said.
“The systems are in place to be able to prepare for immigrants to come into our community,” he said. «Any system can fail if we receive an extreme amount of volume that we didn’t expect.»
“We are as prepared as we can be. And we’ll see how all these new rules and policies will affect that,” she said.
Starting Friday, the county’s Migrant Support Services Center will be able to process 800 people a day, up from 650 currently, Valenzuela said. Migrants arrive at the center after being processed by immigration authorities with the aim of making travel arrangements to continue their journeys. Since October, the service center has processed some 34,000 people.
Once processed, migrants can leave El Paso and head to their next destinations, after first purchasing their own bus and plane tickets. Many are looking to leave El Paso and join loved ones in other states, or head to the city where their court cases will take place.
Valenzuela said the hope is that increasing to 800 people a day or possibly more if necessary could help ease the pressure on NGOs hosting migrants. In recent weeks, up to 3,300 migrants stayed in the area in front of a local church and a homeless shelter because shelter services were full.
In the hours before Title 42 was lifted, migrants in Juárez, Mexico, waited sometimes for days along the border wall for a chance to enter the US.
“Tonight is the decision of many of our Venezuelan brothers and many of our colleagues from other countries who are here fighting,” said Jesús Miguel Roera Mendoza, 26. Roera Mendoza has been waiting about 10 days to be processed along the border wall. On Thursday she was making a more than two hour round trip to get food and cleaning wipes.
“We have our hearts in our hands,” he said, sometimes emotionally saying that being deported to Venezuela would be “fatal.”
He added: «We want to do things right…we want to enter legally.»
Damià Bonmatí, Telemundo News Investigates contributed.