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The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday published its plan to deal with a post-Title 42 migrant surge, while conceding the surge will “substantially strain” resources at the border – as it faces loud bipartisan pushback over its plans to end the public health order on May 23.
“When the Title 42 public health order is lifted, we anticipate migration levels will increase, as smugglers will seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo outlining the agency’s “plan for Southwest Border Security and Preparedness.”
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The memo outlines what it calls a “a whole-of-government plan to prepare for and manage increased encounters of noncitizens at our Southwest Border.”
The plan is mostly a more detailed version of a plan the agency outlined ahead of the April 1 announcement that Title 42 would be lifted. The public health order, which has been used by both the Biden and Trump administrations to expel a majority of migrants at the border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will end on May 23.
Republicans and moderate Democrats have sounded the alarm about a massive surge in migration at the border on top of the already sky-high numbers that the administration has itself called “historic.” DHS has been planning for up to 18,000 migrants a day and the current March numbers of 210,000 a month are expected to increase in the months ahead.
Democratic senators in particular have called for the Biden administration to have a plan in place before Title 42 is lifted and have introduced legislation in an attempt to make the administration implement such a plan. DHS has protested that it does, in fact, have a plan for the coming surge.
The six-step plan released by the administration involves the surging of resources, including medical support and transportation to the border, as well as initiatives to streamline the processing of migrants from the border to their release into the interior of the United States.
However, the agency claims it is also administering consequences for unlawful entry, including the use of Expedited Removal (ER), which can allow for the rapid removal of recently arrived illegal immigrants. However, Border Patrol agents have told Fox News that if a migrant claims they have a fear of persecution, the removal order is changed to a Notice to Appear – meaning they are released into the United States with a future court date.
They said that migrants are already spreading the word about what to say to get released into the U.S. as the administration has already been increased its use of ER to remove illegal immigrants from Northern Triangle countries.
A senior administration official, in a call with reporters, said there was no plan to use family detention as a way to help deal with the surge. However, the use of ER would allow for the use of detention for single adults. The administration has also stressed that it intends to remove “promptly” those who are allowed in, go through immigration proceedings, and are found not to have a valid asylum case.
The other pillars of the administration’s plan includes bolstering the capacity of non-governmental organizations to receive migrants after they’ve been processed by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). NGOs often help migrants with travel, housing and other assistance after they are released.
Finally, the administration say it will target and disrupt transnational criminal organizations who facilitate illegal immigration, and also deter illegal migration throughout the Hemisphere. It pointed to new migration agreements with Panama and Costa Rica, as well as “close cooperation with Mexico.”
“We are also sending a clear message in the region to counteract misinformation from smugglers, including that the termination of the Title 42 public health Order does not mean that the U.S. border is open,” the memo says.
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Mayorkas ends the memo by admitting that the migrant surge will “substantially strain” resources at the border, and instead calls on Congress to pass solutions to fix what the administration has claimed is a “broken” system.
“Despite the efforts of our dedicated DHS workforce and our partners executing this comprehensive plan, a significant increase in migrant encounters will substantially strain our system even further,” he says.
“As it has since its first day in office, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to call on Congress to pass legislation that holistically addresses the root causes of migration, strengthens border security, fixes our immigration system, and improves legal pathways,” the memo says.
That legislation was quickly rejected by Republicans early last year due to its inclusion of a mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the country, combined with a lack of border security measures.
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Republican states have sued the Biden administration in a bid to stop the order being lifted on May 23. The states won a temporary restraining order on Monday as the case proceeds, although details of the order are not clear.
The 21 states are hoping to secure a preliminary injunction barring the lifting of the order after a hearing on May 13.