BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The nation is waiting to see what will happen once the pandemic-era restrictions on immigration into the U.S. expire Thursday night.
To prepare for a possible influx of people crossing the border overnight, the state deployed thousands of soldiers and built 70 miles of fencing to force migrants to come to the U.S. through a port of entry.
Authorities say crossing the river is putting too many lives in danger.
Around noon Wednesday, we witnessed Texas soldiers and airmen from the Quick Reaction Force march toward the border in Brownsville.
The Quick Reaction Force is a group of military police for Operation Lone Star.
"I have thousands of soldiers, airman and Texas state guardsman deployed along 1,254 miles of continuous international boundary," said Brigadier General Matt Barker, Commander of Joint Task Force Lone Star. "They're specially equipped so they are down here to put eyes on the key terrain in Brownsville to help maintain order."
Over these last few days, many of the soldiers and airmen had to be reassigned to another spot along the border based on the number of migrants officials are seeing on the Mexico side.
Whatever midnight brings, Barker said, his team will be ready.
"We always keep our ear to the ground and have information sharing with our law enforcement partners, especially the Department of Public Safety and the municipal agencies. If we do think there's a credible threat, we'll reevaluate. We're well prepared for any contingency," said Barker.
Witnesses tell KENS 5 the size of the migrant camp in Matamoros Wednesday is three times larger than it was during Remain in Mexico.
When standing on the U.S. side of the border, yards away from a migrant processing tent, we saw bus after bus haul people from the border to the bus station in downtown Brownsville.
Once the migrants arrive at the bus station, they are on their own to pay for a bus or plane ticket to their next destination.
We met Griselda Martinez and her daughter as they sat on the sidewalk facing the drop-off spot at the bus station in Brownsville.
Martinez's eyes were hopeful she would see her remaining family members step off the bus.
"I came with 11. We were 11 in total," she explained.
Martinez left Venezuela April 18 with 10 family members. Her group included her daughters, her husband, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
They arrived in Matamoros Sunday.
"The situation in Venezuela gets tougher every day with jobs and safety," said Martinez. "You work and all you can afford is a little food."
The youngest person traveling in her group was her 3-year-old great-grandson. Sunday, the family was separated at the border.
"In Matamoros, we told officials we were all family, but they separated us. They sent me and my daughter alone," said Martinez. "I have faith the rest will come. My heart says they will. I miss my grandson."
"They've set up a situation for chaos," said Joshua Rubin, Founder of Witness at the Border.
Rubin is documenting any injustices he witnesses against migrants, promoting a more humanitarian response.
"People are perched by the river looking and deciding, am I going to wait for my appointment with CBP One? Or am I going to get in that water and go across?" he explained.
Rubin says some migrants in Matamoros may end up taking the chance to cross early to avoid a potentially worse legal situation when Title 42 ends.
"People don't know how to make a rational decision about what they should do. Should they rush to get across under Title 42? Or do they have a better chance under Title 8? Nobody seems to know," said Rubin.
Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas sent a stern message to the public. He said when Title 42 is over, that does not mean the border is open. It's quite the opposite, he added.
Mayorkas said, come midnight Thursday night when Title 8 is re-established, there will be tougher consequences for those who cross the border illegally.
Those people will be subject to a five year bar on reentry into the U.S. and can face criminal prosecution if they try to cross again.
"Smugglers have long been hard at work spreading false information that the border will reopen May 11. It will not be. They are lying to people who are thinking of making the journey to our southern border. Know this, the smugglers care only about profit, not people," said Mayorkas.
Title 42 is set to lift Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.